DACA Students' Strategies in Pursuit of Higher Education: A Cultural Framework Analysis




Castillo, Saeni Bethzabel

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The future of undocumented youth in the United States has become increasingly uncertain. The objective of my study is to explore the cultural frames, as theorized by Benford and Snow (2000) and Rios and Vigil (2017), used by students who have obtained Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status as they navigate higher education in Texas. I present cultural framing as the central dynamic of understanding the negotiation strategies that undocumented youth utilize during their secondary and post-secondary educational transitions. I introduce the official cultural frames—motivational, status and institutional-- that bring DACA students to pursue higher education and guide them through the experiences they encounter through the educational system given the hostile anti-immigrant climate in the United States. I focused on 16 undocumented students of Mexican descent who have obtained deferred action status and who are enrolled or recently graduated from Texas colleges and universities. Within my sample, I interviewed three students whose academic careers were truncated after high school completion. Their experiences helped me understand how DACA does or does not make a difference when shaping cultural frames. I found that cultural frames are interconnected and fluid and can be shaped through the interactions of institutions, parents, peers, siblings and authority figures that ultimately affect DACA students’ educational trajectories.


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DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Higher Education, Immigration, Post-Secondary, Texas