"My mom called me with news that ICE raids were scheduled on her birthday in her city. 'Why do they hate us, we just want to live in peace.' I cried while preparing a talk on immigrant narratives. The conference continued on, undisturbed."
“The longer I stay in academia, the more I realize I might be the only one. I find myself repeating: ‘nobody understands what I’ve done to be here.’”
Academia can be particularly isolating when you are undocumented. Undocumented students currently make up around 2% of all students in higher education, with only 10% of this subset enrolled in graduate school. Despite efforts to support undocumented students in higher education, we continue to face a number of challenges that make it immensely difficult to connect with one another (e.g., discriminatory institutional, state, and federal policies). With support from SPSP’s Catalyst Grant, CUSPP (Connecting Undocumented Social and Personality Psychologists) was our opportunity to organize support for a community whose needs are largely neglected within psychology.
We convened a small group of 15 undocumented undergraduate and graduate students for a series of workshops. Over the course of three sessions, we discussed the unique circumstances undocumented scholars face: deciding whether to disclose our status, identifying and navigating university policies for undocumented students, and finding ways to fund our graduate studies despite eligibility restrictions and barriers to employment. In these discussions, we also shared our concerns about the state of psychological research as it pertains to undocumented communities. These are issues we plan to address as CUSPP develops.
CUSPP continues in its efforts to foster a safe, supportive community for undocumented scholars in SPSP. We created a Slack group to circulate resources and hope to convene in person in the future. Future plans include additional webinars with invited speakers to build bridges for CUSPP members, as well as member highlights to continue building community. Most importantly, our goal is to remove institutional barriers that undocumented scholars face in our field, like the lack of dedicated financial resources which remains the most significant barrier for CUSPP members. Therefore, we seek to create a sustainable source of funding so that CUSPP members can attend conferences, participate in ongoing CUSPP programming, and continue in their development as scholars in our field. Our efforts to push for these institutional changes are a continuation of broader immigrant activism occurring within and outside of higher education. We hope that SPSP and the broader social and personality psychology community can help us in this critical movement.
Feedback from attendees:
“I loved being able to engage with other undocumented students and scientists! Even simply being in a (virtual) room with everyone was great. Being the only undocumented individual in my department (on top of also being one of the very, very few minority students) had left me feeling like an odd outlier in psychology. However, this group has helped me see that there are others who can relate to my experiences. I am glad that I participated, and I very much look forward to future CUSPP events.”
“I liked hearing about everyone's stories and just the all-around sense of community, even if it was virtual. I also enjoyed hearing from people with jobs in the field of psychology.”
“I liked that each session was different. I enjoyed hearing different experiences as undocumented people in various stages of our educational paths.”
Joel Martinez and Jun Won Park recently hosted a Free-Form Friday session on how to support undocumented students in social & personality psychology.
Submissions for 2021 Community Catalyst grants are now open (June 1, 2021 deadline): https://spsp.org/awards/community-catalyst-grant-program