DREAMers Research



José Cárdenas: ASU doctoral student Alissa Ruth spent the last seven years studying undocumented youth and local dreamers. Her most recent research focuses on their ability to create a strong network to advocate for themselves and others as they negotiate their unique social and political land escape. Joining me to talk about her research on dreamers is Alissa Ruth. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." We talk about the last seven years, that's actually a very significant time period. Why?

Alissa Ruth: Well, because before proposition which outlawed in state tuition for undocumented college students, it was easy for --

José Cárdenas: And that we're going back seven years.

Alissa Ruth: Right.

José Cárdenas: When pop300 that passed.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly. It was relatively easy for them to go on to college and find access to scholarships to get their college degrees. But after that proposition 300, literally tripled the tuition price of tuition for these students, and so it was another barrier for them to attain a college education.

José Cárdenas: Tripled the tuition, also denied them financial aid.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly. And access to state scholarships.

José Cárdenas: Then we're left with a situation where these kids, who had been kind of going through the system without much difficulty, all of a sudden they're targeted, would be one way of putting it.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly. They were targeted and singled out. What happened is that the Universities and the community colleges had to identify who these students were, and -- But that what would I look at has positive and unintended consequence of allowing them to receive a private donor scholarship. Which actually made them come together --

José Cárdenas: For the longest time they didn't know who their fellow dreamers so to speak, who they were.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly. So when I did my masters research in 2006 and 2007 before proposition 300 was implemented, I could barely find seven college students to interview, and I was asking high school teachers, college counselors, and it was very difficult. And when defined a dreamer, an undocumented college student would I ask them, do you know anybody else in their situation and they said no.

José Cárdenas: I take it, it wasn't so much they were being cautious, nobody cared at this time.

Alissa Ruth: Nobody really knew they were in school, or that they were actually in our K-12 public school systems, and trying to go to college.

José Cárdenas: So prop 300 passes, medium impact, people are concerned about this. Tell us what happened then, and the difficulties you had. I read some of your paper about establishing yourself with these kids and making them trust you enough to tell you some information.

Alissa Ruth: Sure. So I started my research in 2011, about four years after proposition 300 passed. I noticed around campus there were signs for the dream act, and there was a website where students were getting together and they were advocating for themselves. And so I was fortunate to be able to contact this organization and started attending meetings, and ask for permission to do my research there.

José Cárdenas: What did you find?

Alissa Ruth: I found that the group they had formed actually had positive social network and social capital they created. So this allowed them to share information which included access to scholarships, possible internships, how to start their own business, how to open a bank account, and also about how to know their rights in case they did come in contact with authorities. But then over the time, what this allowed is for them to become undocumented and unafraid. And it allowed for them to come out and speak their status in public, and demand rights for possible road to citizenship.

José Cárdenas: Where you would think especially before the deferred action for childhood arrivals came out, that they would be very, very worried about being publicly identified as being here without lawful status. And yet if anything it emboldened them. They were making an issue out of it.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly. So it had this -- Like I said, there's the protective mechanism because they knew their fellow dreamers would be there fighting, calling the department of homeland security, their senators, for ask for their release. Once a couple came out and were arrested, and were not deported, they started to realize they were able to come out in more numbers.

José Cárdenas: And you mentioned in your work and we made some reference to it here, this is a very unique group. Because they're kind of in between. They're immigrants themselves, but they came as young kids, they're very -- We're almost out of time. How are they going to be different going forward?

Alissa Ruth: Well, now with DACA they can work. However, they still are lacking driver's licenses and the Universities are still prohibiting in-state tuition. So the Arizona board of regents needs to allow this in the state of Arizona needs to allow. So right now I am seeing that they're still fighting for their rights, still fighting in Arizona and still fighting on a national level for comprehensive immigration reform that would not only allow them a pathway to citizenship but their parents.

José Cárdenas: Also there's more chapters to be written on this topic.

Alissa Ruth: Exactly.

José Cárdenas: Thank you so much for joining on us "Horizonte."

Alissa Ruth: Thank you very much.

Arizona State University student Alissa Ruth discusses her research studying undocumented youth and local “DREAMers.” Her research focuses on their ability to create a strong network and to advocate for themselves and others as they negotiate their unique social and political landscape.

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