Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2 - 83

Undocumented Student Mattering
Despite outreach efforts, the family expectation to stay at home sometimes interfered
even with shorter term overnight campus stays. Esmeralda (a Mexican woman
from the West Coast majoring in kinesiology) and Samantha (a Mexican woman from
the West Coast enrolled in a higher education master's program) noted with interest
that orientation programs offered students the chance to stay overnight on campus,
but even short-term stays might be frowned upon by many Latinx families. Esmeralda
explained how these expectations influenced her feelings about staying on campus: " I
feel like I would be kind of afraid . . . I'd be a little scared to stay at a dorm " since taking
this opportunity was not a part of her community's traditional experience.
Samantha was enthusiastic about staying one night on campus as she explained
how she had to navigate family expectations regarding attending overnight orientation:
" My parents are strict . . . and so sleeping anywhere else was not okay. " Esmeralda
and Eddy participated in short-term pre-college stays on campus that included identity-based
programs introducing them to multicultural centers and to other undocumented
students. Overcoming family constraints to participate and stay on campus
was a profound moment as Esmeralda reminisced,
I got to hear an actual person who is very similar to me talk about their experience . . .
how . . . they got to manage college . . . something that forever stuck to me because
it was the first time someone who was a Dreamer ever talked to me.
Participants' stories highlighted the conflicting desires to honor family expectations
while also wanting to connect to campus via immersive experiences. As Little Johnny
acknowledged, " I think not living on campus definitely made it a little bit more difficult
to really submerge yourself in the college culture and really having that college experience. "
Notably, Little Johnny did not remark on any family caregiving expectations.
Reflecting an added layer of gender expectation, Esmeralda explained that her
family expected her to stay home and help care for her two younger siblings, tasks
like helping them with homework: " The main reason was I didn't want to waste more
money on it. I just kind of wanted to stay home to continue helping out my parents
around the house. " Although Esmeralda did not speak about this family reality in a
stressful tone, she revealed a sense of disappointment as she noted that she missed
out on " typical college life " by not living on campus. However, she also noted that she
would have to ask her family for money to live on campus, which she explained with
conviction was unacceptable given her family's immigrant identity and the structural
barriers to financial mobility. Little Johnny mirrored this sentiment: " We save money
by not having to pay college rent. We just live with our parents. It's less of a burden for
our parents to have to come up with the money to pay the rent on campus. " Although
participants noted that living at home saved money, the necessary commutes caused
challenging logistics.
Barriers to their living on campus include the cost of housing and the
need to fulfill the family responsibilities that undocumented students,
specifically those from Latinx backgrounds, may have in the home.
80 The Journal of College and University Student Housing

Journal of College & University Student Housing Volume 50, No. 2

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