Mitzia Castellanos

From Illegalized to Legalized: A Study on Immigrants that Undergo Legalization

This study explores the transition that illegalized immigrants — immigrants made illegal and deportable by immigration law — undergo when they become holders of a lawful immigration status. Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with formerly undocumented young adults who have benefited from a legal immigration remedy that guarantees the attainment of a green card and/or U.S. citizenship; and undocumented young people that have not adjusted their status or may not be eligible for a legal immigration remedy. This study aims to uncover what may be the unforeseen consequences for immigrants, their self-concept and their sense of community when they become green card holders and U.S. citizens. I aim to examine what is overlooked when legalization is framed as the ultimate goal of the immigrant justice movement. It will record whether something is lost and/or whether something is exchanged through legalization. The experiences of legalized immigrants may emphasize that when advocacy is focused solely on legal solutions (e.g. amnesty), the social movement may be limited from understanding how law shapes the innate identities, the legal consciousness, and the relationship of legalized immigrants to the undocumented community.