Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Legitimacy, Social Identity, and the Mobilization of Law: The Effects of Assembly Bill 540 on Undocumented Students in California

  • Leisy Abrego

Abstract

This article examines the instrumental and constitutive effects of California Assembly Bill 540. The law grants undocumented immigrant students an exemption from out-of-state tuition, thereby making some forms of higher education more accessible. Despite the narrow actionable aspects of the law, it unintentionally legitimizes this disenfranchised group. This longitudinal study of undocumented immigrant youth consists of in-depth interviews before, shortly after, and four years after the passage of the law. The findings demonstrate that AB 540 immediately relieved stigma and later provided a socially acceptable identity that, within a legal consciousness informed by meritocracy, empowered these students to mobilize the law in a number of unforeseen ways. The case strongly suggests that it is possible for unintended constitutive functions to have more transformative effects on the daily lives of targeted beneficiaries than the intended instrumental objectives of law.

Copyright

References

Hide All
Abrego, Leisy J. 2006. “I Can't Go to College Because I Don't Have Papers”: Incorporation Patterns of Latino Undocumented Youth. Latino Studies 4 (3): 212–31.
Bartindale, Becky. 2001. Bill Seeks Tuition Break for Illegal Immigrants. (San Jose) Mercury News, August 21, 1A.
Beiner, Theresa M. 2002. Let the Jury Decide: The Gap Between what Judges and Reasonable People Believe is Sexually Harassing. Southern California Law Review 75:791846.
Bumiller, Kristin. 1988. The Civil Rights Society: The Social Construction of Victims. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Calavita, Kitty. 1998. Immigration, Law, and Marginalization in a Global Economy: Notes from Spain. Law & Society Review 32 (3): 529–66.
Carrera, John Willshire. 1989. Educating Undocumented Children: A Review of Practices and Policies. A Trends and Issues Paper. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
Castles, Stephen. 2004. The Factors that Make and Unmake Migration Policies. International Migration Review 38 (3): 852–84.
Chavez, Leo R. 1998. Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants in American Society. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
Coutin, Susan B. 1996. Differences within Accounts of U.S. Immigration Law. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 19 (1): 1119.
Coutin, Susan B. 1998. From Refugees to Immigrants: The Legalization Strategies of Salvadoran Immigrants and Activists. International Migration Review 32 (4): 901–25.
Coutin, Susan B. 2000. Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants’ Struggle for U.S. Residency. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Coutin, Susan B. 2002. Questionable Transactions as Grounds for Legalization: Immigration, Illegality, and Law. Crime Law and Social Change 37 (1): 1936.
De Genova, Nicholas P. 2002. Migrant “Illegality” and Deportability in Everyday Life. Annual Review of Anthropology 31:419–47.
De Genova, Nicholas P. 2004. The Legal Production of Mexican/Migrant “Illegality.” Latino Studies 2 (2): 160–85.
Engel, David M., and Munger, Frank W. 1996. Rights, Remembrance, and the Reconciliation of Difference. Law & Society Review 30 (1): 754.
Engel, David M., and Munger, Frank W. 2003. Rights of Inclusion: Law and Identity in the Life Stories of Americans with Disabilities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ewick, Patricia, and Silbey, Susan S. 1998. The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fernández-Kelly, Patricia, and Curran, Sara. 2001. Nicaraguans: Voices Lost, Voices Found. In Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America, ed. Rumbaut, Rubén G. and Portes, Alejandro, 127–55. Berkeley: University of California Press and Russell Sage Foundation.
Gonzales, Roberto. 2006. Born in the Shadows: How the Sons and Daughters of Unauthorized Migrants Make Ends Meet. Paper presented at the Conference of Ford Fellows, October 20, in Washington, DC.
Hagan, Jacqueline Maria. 1994. Deciding to Be Legal: A Maya Community in Houston. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Haney, Craig, and Hurtado, Aida. 1994. The Jurisprudence of Race and Meritocracy: Standardized Testing and “Race-Neutral” Racism in the Workplace. Law and Human Behavior 18 (3): 223–48.
Heyer, Katharina. 2007. A Disability Lens on Sociolegal Research: Reading Rights of Inclusion from a Disability Studies Perspective. Law & Social Inquiry 32 (1): 261–93.
Hillygus, D. Sunshine. 2005. The Missing Link: Exploring the Relationship Between Higher Education and Political Engagement. Political Behavior 27 (1): 2547.
Hochschild, Jennifer. 1995. Facing up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Hoffmann, Elizabeth A. 2003. Legal Consciousness and Dispute Resolution: Different Disputing Behavior at Two Similar Taxicab Companies. Law & Social Inquiry 28 (3): 629–57.
Kaiser, Cheryl R., and Brenda, Major. 2006. A Social Psychological Perspective on Perceiving and Reporting Discrimination. Law & Social Inquiry 31 (4): 801–30.
Lopez, Nancy. 2003. Hopeful Girls, Troubled Boys: Race and Gender Disparity in Urban Education. New York: Routledge.
Macías, Patrisia. 2006. Criminalizing Migration in an Era of Rights: Ethnographic Observations from the U.S.-Mexico Border. Paper presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meetings, August 11, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Mahler, Sarah J. 1995. Salvadorans in Suburbia: Symbiosis and Conflict. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
McNamee, Stephen J., and Miller, Robert K. Jr 2004. The Meritocracy Myth. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Menjívar, Cecilia. 2000. Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Menjívar, Cecilia. 2006. Liminal Legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan Immigrants’ Lives in the United States. American Journal of Sociology 111 (4): 9991037.
Merry, Sally Engle. 1990. Getting Justice and Getting Even: Legal Consciousness among Working-Class Americans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
National Immigration Law Center. 2006. Basic Facts about In-State Tuition for Undocumented Immigrant Students. http://www.nilc.org/immlawpolicy/DREAM/in-state_tuition_basicfacts_041706.pdf (accessed April 1, 2008).
Ngai, Mae M. 2004. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Nielsen, Laura Beth. 2000. Situating Legal Consciousness: Experiences and Attitudes of Ordinary Citizens about Law and Street Harassment. Law & Society Review 34 (4): 1055–90.
Olivas, Michael. 1995. Storytelling Out of School: Undocumented College Residency, Race, and Reaction. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 22:1019–86.
Passel, Jeffrey. 2005. Estimates of the Size and Characteristics of the Undocumented Population. Report published by Pew Hispanic Center. http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/44.pdf (accessed April 1, 2008).
Portes, Alejandro, and Rumbaut, Rubén G. 2001. Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press and Russell Sage Foundation.
Rumbaut, Rubén G., and Portes, Alejandro, eds. 2001. Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Sanchez, Leonel. 2001. Law Grants in-State Tuition to Undocumented Immigrants. San Diego Union-Tribune, October 12, News.
Sarat, Austin, and Kearns, Thomas R., eds. 1993. Beyond the Great Divide: Forms of Legal Scholarship and Everyday Life. In Law in Everyday Life, 2162. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Swanson, Christopher B. 2005. Who Graduates in California? Report published by the Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=900794, (accessed April 1, 2008).
University of California, Office of the President. 2003. Statistical Summary of Students and Staff, University of California, Fall 2003. http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/uwnews/stat/statsum/fall2003/statsumm2003.pdf (accessed April 1, 2008).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Law & Social Inquiry
  • ISSN: 0897-6546
  • EISSN: 1747-4469
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-social-inquiry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed