Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Migration Studies


College of Arts and Sciences


Migration Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Melissa Canlas


This research investigates how undocumented Asian immigrants navigate the obstacles of higher education. It inquires how undocumented Asian immigrant students navigated the higher education process and how institutional actors influenced their college experience, revealing the intimate interactions between undocumented students and the institutional actors. The political economy of their college application process is understood through the frameworks of liminal legality, narratives, cultural citizenship, borders and boundaries, and governmentality of migration, all of which frame the process of the data analysis.

Through the interviews of college-graduated undocumented Asian immigrants and ethnography at a local high school in the San Francisco Bay Area, this research finds that institutional actors perform a critical role in the context of their higher education process, inviting inclusionary and exclusionary spaces of belonging. Although many recent studies have illustrated the role of cultural citizenship manifest in the civic engagement of undocumented immigrants, few have seriously considered the intimate and structured terms of higher education access and process as a claim to cultural citizenship. The participants’ personal experiences with higher education is constructed in a political-social economy different from one person to another, producing versatile narratives of experiences of inclusion and exclusion in US society. By advocating for themselves, undocumented Asian students are claiming their rights to citizenship in the higher education process.