Diversity, Leadership, and Authenticity in the Undocumented Youth Movement

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2 Scopus citations


The undocumented youth movement is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and immigration status. I argue that racial and immigration status diversity has a direct impact on the movement’s ability to “expand the scope of conflict,” that is to say recruiting new members, reaching out to elected officials, and establishing representative leadership—elements that are critical to the sustainability and effectiveness of a movement. Findings also indicate that immigration status diversity plays a complex role. The presence of citizen allies brings both risks and benefits to the movement, as they reinforce the electoral connection sought by elected officials while at the same time jeopardizing the authenticity of the movement. Results are based on field research conducted between 2012 and 2015 in NJ and NY, including participant observation in state-level campaigns and interviews with over 130 immigrant youths, allies, and elected officials. This article contributes to the social movement literature by providing empirical evidence of the challenges present within diverse coalitions. It addresses the question of immigration status diversity, an issue that affects the immigration movement but speaks more broadly to the role of allies in social movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-61
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • authenticity
  • diversity
  • immigration status
  • leadership
  • social movements
  • undocumented migration


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