Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


John H. Mollenkopf


Martine Azuelos

Subject Categories

Political Science


Immigration, Political incorporation, Public Policy, Social Movements


This dissertation focuses on new paths of immigrant incorporation and on the political mobilization of undocumented youths in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. The goal of this investigation is to assess whether contrasting state laws that either open or restrict eligibility for in-state tuition are associated with different levels of belonging and different styles of organizing among immigrant youths. This research draws from theories on political incorporation and a resource mobilization model of collective action. It also builds on theories of policy design highlighting the role of policy images in immigration reform. This dissertation aims to develop a broader understanding of the subjective sense of belonging, which includes civic and political engagement along with various measures of assimilation. The contrasting cases of state-level policy in New York and New Jersey provide for an investigation into an important level of government that has largely been missing from the debate on comprehensive immigration reform. Both states have considered legislation in 2012 and 2013 which would grant larger access to public universities for undocumented youths. To fully address this issue, the dissertation relies on an innovative mixed-methods approach, collecting both quantitative data from a survey of college-age Latino immigrants, and qualitative data from sixty in-depth interviews with undocumented youths. Results indicate that undocumented youths tend to become mobilized in states which provide more restrictive contexts of reception, and where the coalition of support is still being recruited. However, state laws affecting access to college do shape the availability of political and civic resources for immigrant youths. This is evident both when the law opens and restricts eligibility for in-state tuition. This dissertation highlights the importance of place in immigrants' paths of political incorporation into the United States, as well as the role of policy narratives in fostering or deterring political engagement. The results will help policymakers better understand the contexts of reception which public policies create for young immigrants.