Esther Yoona Cho

Esther Yoona Cho's picture
Research Interests: 
immigration, illegality, race/ethnicity, family, education
Curriculum Vitae: 

Drawing primarily on in-depth interviews with Asian and Latino undocumented young adults in California, I address the question: How do race and ethnicity shape pathways of incorporation for undocumented young adults?  The racialization of undocumented status that equates “illegal” with “Latino” not only has signicant consequences for those who fit within the physical imagery of this identity, but also for those who fall outside of it. Hence, I also specically ask: How do those who can “pass” as documented navigate their everyday lives? Undocumented Asians serve as an interesting case to explore this question in particular, as they reside at the intersection of two racialization processes - the invisible stigma of undocumented immigration status and the visible identity of a non-threatening model minority. My findings show that race indeed operates to simultaneously shield Asian undocumented young adults from and expose them to the detriments of their precarious immigration status in diverse institutional and relational contexts. Therefore, they navigate a delicate position of invisible illegality that is produced and maintained by the broader systemic landscape of racialization and its manifestations in the action and inaction of immigration enforcement, co-ethnoracial community members, and the individuals themselves.

PhD Date:: 
May, 2019
Dissertation Title: 
Invisible Illegality: The Double Bind of Being Undocumented and Asian
Dissertation Committee: 
Irene Bloemraad, Cybelle Fox, Taeku Lee (Political Science)