Building a Life Despite It All: Structural Oppression and Resilience of Undocumented Latina Migrants in Central Florida

SaraJane Renfroe


Immigrants to the United States encounter a multitude of challenges upon arriving. This is further complicated if migrants arrive without legal status and even more so if these migrants are women. My research engages with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality to examine interlocking systems of oppression faced by undocumented migrant women living in Central Florida. I worked mainly in Apopka, Florida, with women who migrated from Mexico, Central America, and South America. I found that three broad identity factors shaped their experiences of life in the U.S.: gender, undocumented status, and Latinx identity. The last factor specifically affected women’s lives through not only their own assertions of their identity, but also outsider projections of interviewees’ race, ethnicity, and culture. My research examines how these identity factors affected my interviewees and limited their access to employment, healthcare, and education. Through a collaborative research project involving work with Central Floridian non-pro t and activist organizations, I conducted interviews and participant observation to answer my research questions. Through my research, I found that undocumented Latina migrants in Central Florida face structural vulnerabilities due to gendered and racist immigration policies and social systems, the oppressive effects of which were only partly mitigated by women’s involvement with community organizations. My research exposes fundamental and systemic failures within U.S. immigration policies and demonstrates that U.S. immigration policy must change to address intersectional oppression faced by undocumented Latina migrants.


immigration; intersectionality; immigration policy; gender; Latinx identity

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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Martha Radice.

ISSN 2369-8721