Perceptions of Legal Status: Associations With Psychosocial Experiences Among Undocumented Latino/a Immigrants

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Abstract

In the present study we used a mixed-method design to examine perceptions of legal status and their association with psychosocial experiences among undocumented Latino/a immigrants in the United States Participants were asked to compare their perceived social experiences with those of documented Latinos/as in order to determine whether differences in such perceptions might emerge and whether such perceptions might differentially impact well-being. A community sample of 140 self-reported undocumented Latino/a immigrants completed questionnaires measuring perceptions of legal status, well-being (global and psychological), perceived context of reception, and experiences of discrimination. Results indicated that individuals who perceived their experiences as different from those of documented Latinos/as due to an unauthorized legal status reported less social equality as evidenced by lower well-being, increased experiences of discrimination, and a more adverse context of reception. Moreover, individuals who perceived their social experiences as different from those of documented Latinos/as due to their legal status reported issues centering on 2 domains: limited opportunity/restricted social mobility and discrimination/unfair treatment. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in terms of advancing theory and from a multicultural counseling perspective.

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