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Chronic Uncertainty on Undocumented Immigrants
updated: Dec 13, 2012, 3:40 PM

Source: University of California Santa Barbara

UCSB Communication Course Studies Effects of Chronic Uncertainty on Undocumented Immigrants

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) - Moments of uncertainty creep into everyone's lives at one time or another, but for some people - or groups of people - those moments are a way of life rather than a passing circumstance. At UC Santa Barbara, a senior capstone course taught by Walid Afifi, professor of communication, has examined the impact of chronic uncertainty on the wellbeing of one particular group - undocumented immigrants in the Santa Barbara area.

For the 15 students enrolled in the course, it's hardly the traditional classroom experience. Their primary assignment was to lead a series of focus groups, in which participants discussed the challenge of going about their daily lives while the very real threat of deportation hangs over their heads. As part of the course - but separate from the focus groups - the students also participated in events designed to serve the undocumented community in Santa Barbara County.

The course involved collaboration with IDEAS, the UCSB student organization that serves undocumented immigrants, and La Casa de la Raza, the Santa Barbara organization that serves the local Latina/o community.

"I thought the course would be a great learning experience for the students," said Afifi. "They led the focus groups, and the vast majority of their grade is based on their analysis of the information developed in the groups." The students met with a total of 23 participants, ranging in age from 19 to 83. Of the five groups, four covered particular cross-sections of the community - day laborers, students, parents, and individuals who at some point had been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fifth group was a combination of individuals with various experiences.

It was an eye-opening experience for everyone involved. "It has dispelled a lot of myths," Afifi continued. "One of the things everyone has gained is an appreciation for the experience of the community. We all came into this with certain myths - some more than others - and learned how much of what we think we know about this community is absolutely false."

For student Mackensie Minniear, the course brought a newfound respect for the resilience demonstrated by the undocumented immigrant community. "Many of the people we talked to had faced unimaginable hardships, things that would have knocked me down in a second," she said. "However, they remain optimistic and hopeful for the future, unwilling to stop until they reach what they want."

While separating fact from fiction is necessary to understand the lives of the people in this community, that wasn't the primary goal of the course; its main purpose was to examine the means by which members of this particular community deal with the challenges of chronic uncertainty. However, in their final papers, students are asked to make recommendations about different kinds of assistance that can be provided.

"One thing that has come up consistently is the driver's license issue," Afifi said. "If you can separate legality from having a driver's license, that would be dramatic. A lot of their uncertainty revolves around driving. They have a lot of fears about being stopped for a minor traffic stop and being detained or deported because the lack of a driver's license identifies them as undocumented."

Generally, though, Afifi emphasized that the course left the question of legality and related immigration policies to others. "Political, moral, economic, and ethical dimensions related to the existing immigration policy are all important to understanding the undocumented immigrant community, but I decided to leave most of those dimensions out of the class," he said. "Instead, I wanted us to focus on the lived experiences of a community that is very much misunderstood, that is intricately connected to the fabric of our larger communities, and that, ultimately, struggles with many of the difficulties - and shares many of the hopes - that we all have."

Leading a course that so thoroughly pursued learning through a mix of scholarly sources and community engagement, he continued, opened the eyes of the students, community members, and Afifi himself to the promise of such collaborative efforts for positive community change.


Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 353731P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 03:46 PM

You're kidding, right?


 COMMENT 353744 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:26 PM

This course is completely rediculous. The illegals are of course stressed because they are in a country breaking the law every moment of everyday. To then suggest that somehow we should lower their stress level by giving them a drivers license is crazy. I cannot believe that UCSB authorized this kind of pseudo class. Nice to know that we as taxpayers are supporting this crap too,


 COMMENT 353745 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:31 PM

I was hoping that this article might lead to a reasonable discussion on paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Guess I was wrong.


 COMMENT 353747 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:35 PM

Like lettuce? Veges? Good because the immigrants picked those crops. Not the loud-mouthed unemployed, not the parolees, not the prisoners, not the people on welfare. Not the bigots, not the rich, not the middle-class. Not the politicians, not the do-gooders. And certainly not the ugly Americans with the big mouths.

I hope you like chicken and steak too because ditto the above. Want that landscape material hauled away for less than three thousand dollars? How about your lawn mowed for less than 60 bucks? Good luck with the next door neighbors teenager, who won't even move off the couch since facebook is so compelling.

Bashing on the poor imigrants is an American tradition, no? Except, we are a nation of immigrants! Ask any Native American.


 COMMENT 353754 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:46 PM

So the goal of this class is "positive community change." The only positive community change I'd like to see is that anyone who wants to come to the US does so legally. Getting into and staying in the US legally would certainly lower some of this "uncertainty" that so reportedly diminishes these peoples' lives. If you enter the US illegally, then you shouldn't be surprised that there will be "uncertainty" in your life here.


 COMMENT 353756P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:47 PM

The bracero program provided cheap labor, legally. Having non-violent criminals do farm labor would be a way to meet cheap farm labor needs without illegals too. (It is insane to incarcerate so many at such high cost. Most prisoners would prefer to work outside than to be inside all day.)

Being against illegal immigration does not mean you are bigoted. It means we should try to meet our 'cheap labor' needs in other ways while still upholding our laws. While illegal immigrants contribute to our society, they also cost our society a great deal too -- in health care, law enforcement, education, social services, civility, rational discourse, ...

Having a high stress level is a logical outcome of choosing to illegally immigrate, live, and work here. Reduce your stress level by applying for legal status, or work to fix what's wrong in your own country please.


 COMMENT 353760P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 04:50 PM

We also seem to have no problem with the illegal immigrants who join our armed forces and fight our wars. We even give them citizenship...posthumously: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-citizen-posthumous-20121207%2C0%2C4665881.story


 COMMENT 353772 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 05:17 PM

I cant blame any single one of them for wanting to leave that cess pool,and sneak across the border for a chance at a better life. But when 13,000,000 of them sneak across the border? hmm what could possibly go wrong?


 COMMENT 353774 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 05:23 PM

13,000,000 (less, actually) over the course of decades. It's not like they all came over at once. Some context is appropriate.


 COMMENT 353776 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 05:23 PM

I think it is the "Illegal" bit that upsets people. And the crime that some bring with them. No other country in the world would allow the undocumented to enter or stay in their country illegally. They don't understand the problem we have or how it was allowed to grow to this proportion..

But we do and we have to deal with it. The legal immigrants work hard, support families with pride and how many do we see waiting around town, panhandling and looking for a hand out? None so far as I can see.


 COMMENT 353788 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 05:55 PM

I believe its an issue of respect and fairness.

Respect, or lack there of, towards the law and processes of the U.S.A.
Fairness: They cheated, they jumped in front of the line. Millions of people want to be here but don't cheat.


 COMMENT 353793P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 06:07 PM

Colonization of the us was an exercise in cheating, especially the lack of respect shown in upholding treaties.


 AUNTIE S. agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 06:11 PM

3747 - You keep ignoring the word "illegal" as so many do who argue your point.


 COMMENT 353811P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 06:58 PM

There is a development in Tacoma WA (Salishan) that was built for Illegal Immigrants! 1325 Homes created! Refugee Pay offers them $2642 per month in SSI benefits, plus Food Stamps, plus Section 8 Housing. Wouldn't you like to get a free ride like the illegals Check out this site http://blogs4borders.blogspot.com/ Illegals .They have cost us $42,849,631,462.00 so far this year.


 COMMENT 353813P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:07 PM

Illegals get immigration, homes, SSI, Food Stamps, Section 8 Housing, aliens, refugees, housing, HUD, social security funds, socialism, economics, government waste, Free medical, dental,eye care,free school lunches, take away American jobs
that we as citizens should get. Bankrupt 17 hospitals in California so far.So these students study all the ways they hurt our country.


 COMMENT 353814 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:08 PM

Americans don't want the jobs that undocumented immigrants have. Look no further than Alabama's labor laws and what's happened to their agriculture industry.


 COMMENT 353816 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:21 PM

814- your wrong. for years Illegals have artificially held wages down, by living in clown houses and not making any income tax contributions and leaching off all this states social programs. Making minimum wage quite lucrative.

Many of us would love the jobs they stole back, just now at these wages.

Hard to believe you are the same people that support Union hikes but not wage hikes for all citizens.


 COMMENT 353825 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:35 PM

Well I for one would not "love" the jobs they do. Neither apparently do the people who wander aimlessly around the town doing nothing. I bet if you wanted a ditch digging and handed one of these healthly looking panholders a shovel, he would take tail and skedaddle fast!


 COMMENT 353828 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:38 PM

@745... paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Yes, the law provides for that already in case you were unaware.

It starts with returning to your home country, going to the U.S. Embassy there and applying for U.S. citizenship in a lawful way. Oh... don't expect to just have it handed to you. Its a process that has controls and quotas based on what we as a nation can absorb, not otherwise.


 COMMENT 353832 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-13 07:53 PM

Control the border, then I'd be happy to discuss paths to citizenship. Lacking border control, paths to citizenship are a giveaway. No thanks.


 COMMENT 353880P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 12:01 AM

Driver's licenses - it seems anyone driving in CA should have a driver's license for the protection of all of us. I don't like the idea of so many people driving without passing tests of their skills and knowledge of driving laws. I wish there was some way we could have illegals take the driver's test. I know we are then allowing them to drive in CA. But right now many are doing it with out proper training and testing. I'd like to see that separated out from being deported. I'm just thinking of the safety of us all. How would they pay a traffic fine, go to traffic court? It's complicated. But it seems crazy we have people driving the roads without having licenses.


 COMMENT 353892P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 02:15 AM

754, 756, 788, AUNTIE S., 813, 816 : Thanks for making sense. I agree completely. And I have lost so-called friends, for speaking my mind and saying what you have put down in writing. Common sense seems very lacking when it comes to this subject.


 COMMENT 353913 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 07:35 AM

Lets all guess how much each and every one of those anchor babys cost's Cali la la land fornia per month. my guess is $850.00


 COMMENT 353919 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 07:47 AM

The problem is not with field workers who make up a small percentage of the population of illegal’s... no, the problem is the cash based economy that thrives in the immigrant community and the ill effects it has on working class Americans.

One needs not look any further than the trades to see how a unfettered immigration policy decimated the incomes and livelihoods of Americans. The cheap labor undermined what was once a thriving option for Americans, who now, if they play by the rules, are underbid by those who do not play by the rules. The fallacy of Americans wont do those jobs is just that - a fallacy. The reality is that my 13 year old nephew doesnt have a single lawn to mow because they're all being trimmed and mowed by services that hire undocumented workers - this wasnt the case 25years ago - kids mowed the lawns in my neighborhood...


 COMMENT 353926 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 08:08 AM

How come they don't have Mexican Driver's licenses??? If stopped for a minor violation in the US and they showed a valid Mexican (or Guatemalan or Canadian or ...) they would not be arrested and deported.

And the jobs that they do were done in the past by hard working Americans, often new legal immigrants to this country.


 COMMENT 353949 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 09:03 AM

In 1997 i chose not to go to college because i looked around at all my friends who were mechanicaly challenged, and had absolutely no work ethic due to their parenting and the fairly new trend of Nintendo. I had pride that i was willing to get dirty and really looked forward to makin some money while the rest of my friends were paying for college. Thought i made a pretty savy choice until i realized none of the older tradesmen wanted to risk hiring a Legal Citizen. Excuses of Insurance, employment taxes, and not enough work were the majority of the reasons why i could'nt be hired, yet picking up a few illegal aliens down at that wall was a daily occurance.
Most these guys are all well past retirement age but since they've bid down the price of services, they've actually put themselves into the poorer class making retirement unthinkable.


 COMMENT 353952 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 09:13 AM

I have a Swedish friend who wants to immigrant and bring his company, jobs and money with him but can't get a green card. Immigration should be controlled and open to all nationalities - no amnesty, government handouts, Section 8 housing, schooling or drivers licenses for illegals (not 'undocumented' - let's call a spade a spade). Other countries don't allow this and neither should we.


 COMMENT 353963 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 09:47 AM

I think we have come up with a solution to this issue. We can assign the "jobs Americans won't do" to those incarcerated and on assistance. Having to work hard for benefits or as repayment for the cost of your incarceration will fill the gap left by illegal immigrants when we begin enforcing our immigration laws. Americans do want the construction jobs that are regularly underbid and taken by illegal workers. Teenagers do need to get part time jobs and they will mow lawns etc if the jobs are available. And 880 what in the world makes you think a majority of these people will subject themselves to being tested and documented to obtain a driver's license? Currently they can drive without worries. If they get a DUI they pay a fine if that. No record of anything else. I've seen this first hand. This problem is out of control and we have the means to fix it we just have to stop babying people who do not follow our laws.


 COMMENT 354009 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 10:55 AM

Other countries have substantial populations of undocumented immigrants. There are a lot of people in this thread who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about in any way and reading these baseless, unaware comments is actually embarrassing and makes me ashamed to read Edhat.


 COMMENT 354050 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 12:08 PM

009 Can you please name all these countries? Do these countries have laws on immigration and choose to not apply them like we're doing?

If these countries have laws that state it does'nt matter where you come from, i doubt you'll be naming any country YOU'D move to!


 COMMENT 354062 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-14 12:38 PM

Brazil, Britain, Canada. Other EU nations. Latin and Central American countries. India.

This shtick about how we don't apply the law is nonsense. We deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants every year. The total population has been dropping every year since 2007. We are getting rid of them at a rate almost faster than they are immigrating. So what laws aren't being enforced? Should we hire 150k police to start knocking down doors and demanding papers?

I'd just like to know what you expect to be done. A 100 foot tall border wall? America, the police state? They come here because employers are willing to pay them wages below the mandated minimum because they are illegal. If you want less, focus on fixing our job market by bringing manufacturing jobs back. Maybe teach Americans that it's okay to get your hands dirty working on a farm, since apparently Americans are too good for that kind of work (as evidenced by Alabama).


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