Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Education for Social Justice

Dissertation Committee

Reyes L. Quezada, EdD, Chairperson; Alberto Pulido, PhD, Member; Vannessa Falcón Orta, PhD, Member


Undocumented Critical Theory, Undocumented Students, Illegality as a master status, education, belonging, Academic Threat, Academic Support, Undocu-Serving, Higher Education, Ethnic Studies, Immigrants, Tijuana, San Diego, Social Justice, AB540, Narrative Inquiry, Resistance, Resilience


Undocumented students face myriad obstacles while attending higher education institutions that would deter them from completing their academic journeys. Furthermore, they are placed with a dual narrative that labels them as either dangerous or exceptional. This study explored the lived experiences of undocumented students in college in the San Diego-Tijuana border region to consider what factors have led to resilience and resistance in their academic journey. By understanding these factors, the research aimed to tackle the dual narrative that burdens undocumented students from the illegality as a master status they possess.

This study used narrative inquiry and a literature review as a research methodology. The literature identified four themes, known as commonalities, found in previous research studies about undocumented college experiences. These commonalities (Illegality as a Master Status, Academic Threat, Academic Support, and Belonging) bring forth educational practices that have either deterred or promoted success in undergraduate undocumented students. An undocumented critical theory lens is used to dispel the perceived binary narrative of undocumented lives and gives voice to undocumented students.

Narrative inquiry as a research methodology was used to create an environment of reflection, politicization, and transformation to identify recurring themes. Findings suggested undocumented college students in the San Diego-Tijuana region benefit from the various forms of academic and professional support, but undocumented student experiences indicated there is still further need for socioemotional support and institutions should move from undocumented student enrolling to undocumented student serving.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Learning and Teaching

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License