The sample for this study derived from a longitudinal study with Latinx families living in southeast Michigan. The current analytic sample (n = 105) included foreign-born parents of adolescent children who participated in the final wave of data collection. A subsample of 39 parents (22 undocumented and 17 documented) participated in semi-structured interviews regarding their socialization practices and experiences as immigrants raising children in the US.
Six themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the interviews: 1) Education as an Asset; 2) Cultural Socialization; 3) Documentation Status Socialization; and 4) Targeted Discrimination. Considering only the undocumented participants, two additional themes were identified: 5) Ever-Present Fear and Stress; and 6) Survival by Isolation. For example, one participant recounted warning her children as they got in the car: “[C]areful if we see the police...Oh, Lord, it’s hard to live like that. And they notice it. They feel it. Even my son sees the police and says, ‘I stay still. I don’t move. I’m very still’.” Another undocumented participant described talking about family dissolution with her daughter: “You have to be aware that your father or I can be detained at any moment. It is possible that we are going to be in jail or deported. And even more nowadays with all this fear with the new president. I never felt this way, so insecure in this country.” Another worried about how such fear affected her children’s mental health: “What they hear, what they see, it all damages them.” Both undocumented and documented parents reported similar levels of preparation for bias; however, undocumented parents were more likely to use cultural socialization (β = .18, p <.05) and promote mistrust (β = .20, p <.05) in their ethnic-racial socialization than documented parents. Finally, parents’ experiences of discrimination did not mediate the relationship between their documentation status and ethnic-racial socialization.
These results provide important insights into the socialization practices Latinx immigrant parents utilize to prepare their children for experiences outside of the home. The current presidential administration is openly hostile toward undocumented Latinx immigrants who face the constant possibility of deportation and family separation. Thus, this study has important implications for understanding how cultural heritage values and behaviors may be maintained across generations in an environment of political adversity, as well as the ways in which such adversity may impact how these families adapt and respond to their social context.