Active Citizenship, Unequal Inclusion and Exclusion to Higher Education in the United States. The Case Study of Mexican Immigrant Families and Their Fight for the DREAM Act in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Víctor Manuel Durand Ponte (UNAM)
This research project investigates the experiences of Mexican immigrant families with mixed status fighting for access to the American higher education system. Specifically, my work focuses on how immigrant families in Mesa and Phoenix, Arizona have been struggling to bring about the passage of the DREAM Act. These cities were especially chosen because Arizona – where laws such as SB 1070, Proposition 300 and HB 2008 have been used against migrants – is considered to be one of the United States’ most racist and discriminatory states.
The study’s central question concerns why some members of families with mixed status have become involved in the fight for the DREAM Act, while others have not. Toward this end, semi-structured interviews were conducted in April 2014. The working hypothesis is that engaged family members use their active citizenship as a strategy for gaining access to social rights. The analysis is further informed by the premise that there are four factors that either facilitate or hinder the realization of active citizenship and support of the DREAM Act: 1) education level: the higher the level of the parents’ education, the higher the degree of participation; 2) migration status: members of families with mixed status with American citizenship are more involved because they have greater access to social rights, whereas undocumented members see their mobilization on behalf of the DREAM Act as an effort to acquire citizenship; 3) the local government; and 4) the American society. The latter two factors ultimately serve to inhibit the involvement of members of families with mixed status.
In addition, family members who do not become involved might be called “free riders” (in line with Mancur Olson’s logic of collective action) for, as my hypothesis suggests, they prefer to wait for the results achieved by those who participate rather than to participate themselves.