On the margins: Undocumented students' narrated experiences of (il)legality

Kendall A King, Gemma Punti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Undocumented migration is a major demographic trend, yet both under researched and under-theorized. This is particularly the case for undocumented students in the U.S., as most studies that target this population have spotlighted extraordinary adolescents (e.g., . Gonzales, 2008). Much less is known about the everyday unextraordinary experiences of undocumented youth in navigating the U.S. legal and social terrain. To address this gap, this study interviewed and observed undocumented Latino youth in the U.S. over 18 months, and examined what we term, the 'narrative accounts of legality' produced by 15 youths. Analysis of these 20 narrative accounts reveals that immigration status is experienced and understood largely in racial terms. Findings provide insight into how these experiences are linked to youths' sense of self and self-development and the ways in which these high school students and young adults discursively make sense of the myriad contradictions surrounding them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-249
Number of pages15
JournalLinguistics and Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the University of Minnesota's Institute for Equity, Diversity, and Advocacy (IDEA) for a research grant supporting this project; the Minnesota Immigration Freedom Network (MIFN) for their collaboration at the outset of this project; and Anna De Fina for her timely and thoughtful input on the final write-up. We are deeply appreciative of the student who shared their time, stories and selves with us, and in doing so, made this project possible.

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adolescent
  • Citizenship
  • Latino
  • Legal status
  • Narrative
  • Race


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