Date of Graduation

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

First Advisor

Shabnam Koirala-Azad

Second Advisor

Stephen Cary

Third Advisor

Patrick Camangian

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gain meaningful insights into the experiences of six undocumented immigrant mothers as they settled in the United States while they raise and participate in the educational life of their children. Currently 10 % of California's 6 million students originate from homes where one or two parents are undocumented, poor and have limited English skills. Undocumented immigrants live in constant fear of deportation, live and work in the shadows of mainstream society, are stigmatized by the media, are criminalized by immigration law and exploited by their employers. Historically, children originating from immigrant homes have not been successful in American schools. Educational research has detailed this historical failure in the literature; however there is limited research on the experiences and voices of immigrant students and their families. This study seeks to begin filling this void by specifically researching the experience of undocumented immigrant mothers with children in the California school system. An ethnographic approach was utilized to gather and analyze the data. This approach required observations in the home and the community and dialogues with participants regarding their particular experiences as undocumented immigrant mothers. The participants' specific quotes, interviews, and dialogues were translated to English. The participants reviewed the transcripts for clarification and feedback. A dialogue group formed of four of the participants provided feedback on preliminary findings and assisted in the development salient themes and a number of final recommendations. This study revealed that undocumented immigrant mothers rely heavily on their kin and social networks to settle in to the community, experience a variety of limitations and humiliations related to their undocumented status. They dedicate the majority of their time and energy to providing care for their family and to support their children's education. In addition, the study revealed that undocumented immigrant mothers are resourceful, resilient and have an unfaltering faith to transcend the many borders they face

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