Student Affairs Practitioners' Leadership on behalf of Undocumented College Students in the USA

Hilda Cecilia Contreras Aguirre

Abstract

The United States is considered a country of immigrants that has historically hosted people from all over the world. Oftentimes, immigrants struggle to find and shape an American identity, especially when it comes to undocumented youth (Gonzales, 2008). New waves of immigrants to this country trigger feelings of fear concerning the loss of national identity and the lack of cultural incompatibility (Kim & Díaz, 2013a). In this sense, the emergence of anti-immigration attitudes has been in the political, social, and economic agenda over the last years. As a result, postsecondary institutions have been constantly looking for accomplishing social progress and growth (McDermott, 1973); however, there are still gaps to fill in at institutions with respect to create a welcome atmosphere and campus-wide acceptance for all students. In particular, undocumented students which the National Immigration Law Center defined as “a foreign national who: (1) entered the United States without inspection or with fraudulent documents; or (2) entered legally as a nonimmigrant but then violated the terms of his or her status and remained in the United States without authorization” (as cited in Educators for Fair Consideration, 2019) face socioeconomic and institutional barriers. Therefore, it deems necessary to find appropriate services and allocate resources that help undocumented students cope with difficulties concerning both their college adjustment and personal struggles reaching a holistic development (Gildersleeve &Ranero, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to address the topic of undocumented students as it relates to their college persistence. In particular, four leadership theories help highlight the important role of student affairs practitioners to become advocates and seek social justice for this unique student population.

The organization of the manuscript encompasses the following sections. First, a brief literature review concerning federal and state legislation on undocumented students is presented. Then, an overview of student affairs practitioners’ importance to promote a positive college climate and better serve this student population is addressed. The aforementioned section includes four leadership theories, which student affairs professionals could adopt. Next, an outline addressing the social justice aspect on behalf of undocumented students is introduced. Finally, a section covering recommendations for student affairs professionals is proposed yielding the conclusion.

Keywords

Undocumented Students, Student Affairs, US

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