Oct 30, 2014
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Community colleges in the United States (US) remain relatively accessible to students from immigrant families. However, undocumented immigrant students encounter difficulties in staying continuously enrolled in community colleges because they contend with multiple disadvantages. These students often ‘stop out’, or withdraw with intentions to return. This mixed-methods study explores the non-continuous enrolment of students from immigrant families. Drawing on survey data from a randomly selected sample of community college students in California, logistic regression results indicate that although the children of immigrants exhibit an ‘immigrant advantage’ with respect to staying continuously enrolled in community college, those who remain undocumented stop out at disproportionately high rates. Through a comparative analysis of 80 semi-structured interviews with undocumented immigrants and US citizens, I outline the multidimensional ways in which a precarious legal status interferes with students' postsecondary schooling. Specifically, I suggest that undocumented students' legal status often leads them to stop out due to corresponding financial hardship, sub-standard employment options, the precarious legal status of other undocumented family members who rely on their earnings, and excessive stress. This study offers evidence that the condition of ‘illegality’ functions as a ‘master status’ that has an overpowering effect on students' college pathways.