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Survey Spotlights Undocumented Student Experiences, Needs

December 11, 2020

A survey of undocumented immigrant students attending California State University and University of California campuses found that the majority of students are faring well in the classroom -- 65 percent of respondents reported a grade point average of 3.0 or higher -- but they face significant financial, health and immigration-related stressors.

Among the 1,300 respondents, 96 percent reported worrying about not having enough money to pay for things, and 59 percent reported food insecurity.

Thirty-nine percent reported that they, a family member or friend had been involved in deportation proceedings or had been detained or deported.

Seventy-two percent said they felt they needed to see a professional during the 2019-20 academic year because of problems with their mental health, emotions or nerves, but just 48 percent had sought support. Twenty-eight percent reported fair or poor health, nearly three times the rate as in a national sample of young adults.

Slightly less than a quarter (24 percent) of students said their immigration status prevents them from accessing campus resources they need. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) reported having been to an office or meeting with a person who focuses on supporting undocumented students, and 65 percent reported accessing immigration legal services on campus. Slightly more than half (53 percent) reported using a campus food pantry.

Seventy-six percent reported feeling distracted in class because they were thinking of an issue related to their immigration status. Thirty-eight percent reported participating in at least one professional development experience, such as an internship.

“Academic performance conceals the struggles these students face on a daily basis,” Laura Enriquez, lead author of the study and an associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine, said in a press statement. “Administrators recognize that these students have unique needs but must have better information in order to meet them. Our findings aim to fill that gap.”

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