UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Educators' dilemmas : post high school transitions for students without documentation Radoff, Sara A.


Through an institutional ethnography in two secondary public schools in northwest Washington State, this research explores the web of social relations coordinating the lived experiences of students without legal immigration status and the educators who taught them. The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, guarantees students’ access to a public K-12 education, regardless of immigration status. However, without a pathway to legalize their residency, unauthorized status inevitably denies these students full social membership in a polity, which excludes them from assuming paid professional careers, presents significant obstacles in pursuing higher education, and precludes their full social and political participation. Those without authorized status are unable to fully actualize the dreams, knowledge and skills developed throughout their education. Situated in this tension, I examined educators’ everyday schooling activities that prepared students for life after graduation. Educators’ daily practices groomed students to become college-bound and career-driven. To pursue these goals, my research suggests that ruling relations positioned educators to enact depoliticized discourses of meritocracy and a decontextaulized student-centered practice, as well as practices that silenced the social, political and economic contexts of students’ lives. Situated in a contradictory intersection of education and immigration policy, I argue that redressing the root cause of the injustice that students without legal status experience requires political action. This research suggests that educators dedicated to a socially just education grounded in human rights would commit to political action, express passionate and informed encouragement to their students, and acknowledge and engage status as a lived experience in their students’ lives.

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