Navigating Liminal Legalities Along Pathways To Citizenship: Immigrant Vulnerability and the Role of Mediating Institutions


In this report, we summarize the findings of research funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and conducted in Southern California over the course of eighteen months between January 2014 and September 2015. This time period coincided with the announcement of and subsequent legal challenges to the DACA and DAPA program – a period characterized by extreme legal uncertainty over the availability and scope of these “Executive Relief” programs. Drawing from 16 in-depth interviews with staff of 10 different immigrant serving organizations and 47 interviews with noncitizens in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, we captured the on-the-ground challenges facing noncitizens and community based organizations as the scope and availability of Executive Relief was debated. In our research, we focused on the hardships and barriers to incorporation imposed by liminal legal status, the challenges faced by organizations mediating between their constituents and the state in periods of legal uncertainty, and the ways that uncertainty has reshaped the social, political and legal environment in which immigrant-serving organizations and their constituents interact. Our research is ongoing, but here we offer our preliminary findings for some of our research questions.

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