Abstract: Algo Que Duele Mucho [Something That Hurts a Lot]: Latinx Children's Perceptions of Immigrants' Experiences in the US (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Algo Que Duele Mucho [Something That Hurts a Lot]: Latinx Children's Perceptions of Immigrants' Experiences in the US

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Cecilia Ayon, PhD, Associate Professor, University of California Riverside
Objective: Dreby proposed a model on the deportation burden on Latinx children, she found the threat of deportation impacts Latinx children regardless of their families’ status as children conflate being an immigrant with being undocumented.  Parents may limit conversations with their children about immigration as a way of “protecting” them or because they are unprepared to have such discussions. However, children may learn of their families’ vulnerability through the media and interactions with others (i.e., peers, teachers). Informed by the ecodevelopmental framework, this study addresses a gap in literature by examining children’s perceptions of immigrants’ experiences in the U.S. and how it informs their perceptions of their families’ vulnerability.  

Method: In-depth semi-structured interviews were completed with 30 Latinx children who are members of mixed-status families (i.e., at least one parent was undocumented). All children were born in the U.S. and their ages ranged from 7-12. Visual aids were used to initiate the discussion on immigration. Children were asked to make a drawing that represents what think about immigration.  Additional questions included, describe what it means to be an immigrant and undocumented, what life is like for immigrants in the U.S., describe how immigrants are treated in the U.S. and who they discuss immigration issues with. Constructivist grounded theory methods informed the analysis. A constant comparative approach was used while completing initial, focused, and axial coding. Multiple steps were taken to support the trustworthiness of the study (i.e., multiple coders, peer debriefing model, and multiple quotes per theme).

Results: Five major themes emerged from the data, mostly highlighting challenges immigrants face in the US. Children reported that immigrants experience discrimination through limited opportunities, not feeling welcomed in the U.S., and being disrespected (They are treated poorly...they are telling them to leave..it’s something that hurts a lot like when you hit yourself…like you don’t belong here…you are worthless here.). Deportation struggles was illustrated through children’s description of increased risks immigrants face (It’s hard… because they need to be aware of their surroundings…Cause you never know what can happen…maybe they could catch you…). Children are cognizant that immigrants experience limitations in traveling which means that they are unable to see family in their country of origin (They can’t return because they don’t have papers, can’t see they’re grandparents). Family separation was also identified as a common experience for immigrants and an issue that concerned them as well (It’s sad because they are sent back and their child is staying behind because they were born here.). Finally, children identify several strengths in immigrants’ experiences including positive attributes (i.e., brave and courageous) and recognize that they are in search for opportunities for their families.  

Conclusion: Consistent with the ecodevelopmental framework, Latinx children are aware of the struggles that immigrants in the US face; fewer children share narratives about immigrants’ strengths.  Findings highlight an opportunity to develop interventions to support parent-child interactions on immigration (e.g., build counter narratives) and advocacy efforts to changes policies that contribute to the oppression of immigrant families and their children.