Stories of Dreams: Documented and Undocumented Immigrants’ Traumas and Resilience in U.S. Schools
Schools with immigrant populations—both documented and undocumented—must find ways to support their students’ success in the face of many possible psychological factors influencing their progress, including trauma and resilience. We asked whether there are causes and manifestations of trauma and resilience for immigrant students that can be identified through narratives and whether educators can develop supports for immigrants using research on trauma and resilience. We also looked at differences in the ways trauma and resilience were portrayed for documented and undocumented students in U.S. schools in order to guide development of school supports. We analyzed 38 stories of immigrant students (of equal gender) in New York City (Grades 8–12), 10 of which were undocumented student stories. Through coding and comparisons of themes we found that the majority of documented students experienced such trauma-related stressors as racism, xenophobia, loss of family, and language/social isolation while also describing resiliency-related factors, including peer interactions and family supports. The undocumented student stories involved themes of separation and loss as well as fears of punishment, but with considerably more resiliency-related factors, including family supports, decision-making and self-determination. The number of stressors and factors in the students’ stories reflects the varied and complex nature of students’ experiences in schools, suggesting that school responses to students must be equally varied, emphasizing the unique assets and needs of each. We address the findings and offer implications for school policy and practices.
Keywords - Immigrant students, Resilience, Stories, Trauma