Roberto Gonzalez


The Uncertain Futures of the Children of Undocumented Immigrants

This project aims to better understand the experiences of undocumented youth and the ways in which immigration laws, family circumstances, and community institutions shape the important transition to adulthood. While their childhoods are not impacted by their own legal status, their parents’ immigration status and poverty circumstances place them in cramped housing arrangements, impoverished communities, and in overcrowded schools with high levels of segregation and high student-to-teacher ratios. As they move into late adolescence, however, they are forced to confront their own legal limitations while facing increasing pressures to earn money to take care of themselves and their family. The central aims of the project are to understand: how early school and family experiences shape late adolescence and early adulthood; how undocumented youth negotiate the transition to undocumented adult lives; and how out-of-school and college bound undocumented youth negotiate the respective obstacles. Related to these questions, I am also interested in the roles local institutions and institutional actors play in erecting barriers or smoothing transitions for undocumented youth.

Robert Gonzales, was an Assistant Professor in the UW School of Social Work at the time of this award and now is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. He chose the state of Washington from which to draw samples of unauthorized Latino and Asian young adults, ages 20-36. Using multiple methodologies—participant observation and in-depth semi-structured interviews—his aim is to generate a deeper understanding of the ways in which early experiences of family and school, community institutions, and immigration law shape their futures and the limited options from which they make decisions. He has done previous work on youth in the Los Angeles area.
See articles referring to his similar LA work that is published in the August 2011 American Sociological Review: Huffington Post July 27, 2011; Eureka Alert July 26, 2011.