American Studies ETDs

Publication Date



This thesis offers a social, historical, and political analysis of the Undocumented Youth Movement from 1986 to 2012 for the purposes of understanding how the movement carved out spaces of social belonging that problematized punitive immigration legislation and traditional understandings of citizenship. In particular, I argue that undocumented youth challenge the social binary of deserving and underserving citizenry by positing a counter cultural critique of U.S. immigration policies and the organizations that support or challenge these policies. By counter culture I mean the ways in which undocumented youth combat normative cultural integrations into the broader society and therefore do not comply to American youth models. This thesis seeks to demonstrate how undocumented youth activists are a source of knowledge production and how their criticism deserving citizenry shapes power structures, be it policies or governmental officials that seek to manage practices of inclusion and exclusion. I believe that the political deviant forms of organizing by undocumented youth activists create an alternate way of decentering U.S. Empire. I believe that through an analysis of the Undocumented Youth Movement, scholars can identify the ways in which the U.S. nation-state uses technologies of management to repress radical or dissident immigrant rights organizers. The Undocumented Youth Movement has been and continues to engage in an ongoing struggle to push the boundaries of inclusion without the cost of exclusion or repression of select populations of immigrants, including adults, transgender populations or those who have been criminalized.




Immigration, Activism, Social Movements, Policy, Politics, Race, Critical Race Theory, Queer Theory

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Irene Vásquez

Second Committee Member

Antonio T. Tiongson Jr.

Third Committee Member

Christine Sierra