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Although previous research on the role of post-secondary education in the lives of undocumented youth has offered insight regarding demographics, educational achievement, measures of well-being, and generational trajectories, less is known about these young immigrants’ values and beliefs regarding themselves, their relation to others, their futures, and the potential influence of their social surroundings on these values. The intersecting perceptual beliefs between self and higher education were investigated among 7 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants in 2 U.S. community colleges and were hypothesized to reflect two social environments: an urban (New York) and a suburban (New Jersey) setting. As values analysis uncovers principles and goals embedded within narratives, the similarity (shared beliefs) and dissimilarity (unshared beliefs) of being undocumented in these two landscapes were investigated through values. Results revealed that regardless of location, undocumented students held values concerning perseverance and the need to hide their status yet be understood by others. However, depending on location, values either reflected the importance of improving either one’s family condition (New York) or one’s personal trajectory (New Jersey). Implications are discussed in the context of current U.S. immigration policy and what college administrators and faculty can implement in order to create a more welcoming climate for this vulnerable, yet growing, student population.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, available at



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