We Are Not Dreamers

Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 3 illustrations Published: August 2020

Activism, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Pedagogy and Higher Education

The widely recognized “Dreamer narrative” celebrates the educational and economic achievements of undocumented youth to justify a path to citizenship. While a well-intentioned, strategic tactic to garner political support of undocumented youth, it has promoted the idea that access to citizenship and rights should be granted only to a select group of “deserving” immigrants. The contributors to We Are Not Dreamers—themselves currently or formerly undocumented—poignantly counter the Dreamer narrative by grappling with the nuances of undocumented life in this country. Theorizing those excluded from the Dreamer category—academically struggling students, transgender activists, and queer undocumented parents—the contributors call for an expansive articulation of immigrant rights and justice that recognizes the full humanity of undocumented immigrants while granting full and unconditional rights. Illuminating how various institutions reproduce and benefit from exclusionary narratives, this volume articulates the dangers of the Dreamer narrative and envisions a different way forward.

Contributors. Leisy J. Abrego, Gabrielle Cabrera, Gabriela Garcia Cruz, Lucía León, Katy Joseline Maldonado Dominguez, Grecia Mondragón, Gabriela Monico, Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, Maria Liliana Ramirez, Joel Sati, Audrey Silvestre, Carolina Valdivia


We Are Not Dreamers is a captivating counternarrative that smashes the false distinction between deserving and undeserving immigrants worthy of human rights in the United States. By centering the voices of undocumented scholars, Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales capture the complexity of experiences, the intersectionality of identities, and the raw devastation and resilience of undocumented life. This book has the power to transform both public discourse and public policy on immigration and is required reading for my documented friends, family, and colleagues—as well as my undocumented students.” — Laura Emiko Soltis, Executive Director and Professor of Human Rights, Freedom University

We Are Not Dreamers has the potential to shape both the focus and practices of immigration scholarship by encouraging scholars to write with rather than merely about undocumented groups and by highlighting the particular insights that come from experiencing illegalization. This volume is a model for how faculty can support students and will be an inspiration to others. Powerful and informative.” — Susan Bibler Coutin, author of Exiled Home: Salvadoran Transnational Youth in the Aftermath of Violence

“Rich with the details about the unique ways undocumented scholars grapple with the realities of what they are thinking and living through, this book is for families, parents, self-proclaimed dreamers and non-dreamers, citizens, students, and scholars in all fields.” — Silvia Rodriguez Vega, Latinx Project


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Price: $26.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Leisy J. Abrego is Professor of Chicana/o and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love across Borders.

Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales is Associate Professor of Education at the University of San Francisco and coauthor of Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction / Leisy J. Abrego and Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales  1
1. "Other" Borders:  The Illegal as Normative Metaphor / Joel Sati  23
2. "I felt like an embarrassment to the undocumented community": Undocumented Students Navigating Academic Probation and Unrealistic Expectations / Grecia Mondragón  45
3. Disrupting Diversity: Undocumented Students in the Neoliberal University / Gabrielle Cabrera  66
4. American't: Redefining Citizenship in the U.S. Undocumented Immigrant Youth Movement / Gabriela Monico  87
5. Contesting "Citizenship": The Testimonies of Undocumented Immigrant Activist Women / Gabriela Garcia Cruz  110
6. Undocumented Young Adults' Heightened Vulnerability in the Trump Era / Carolina Valdivia  127
7. Beyond Identity: Coming Out as UndocuQueer / Maria Liliana Ramirez  146
8. Me Vestí De Reina: Trans and Queer Sonic Spatial Entitlement / Audrey Silvestre  168
9. Legalization Through Marriage: When Love and Papers Converge / Lucía León  190
10. Undocumented Queer Parenting: Navigating External and Internal Threats to Family / Katy Joseline Maldonado Dominguez  211
Appendix: Keywords / Katy Joseline Maldonado Dominguez  235
Contributors  241
Index  245

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