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Out and Asian: How Undocu/DACAmented Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Youth Navigate Dual Liminality in the Immigrant Rights Movement


  • Loan Thi Dao

    () (Asian American Studies Program, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA 02125, USA)


Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) represent the fastest-growing racial category in the U.S., largely due to its increasing immigration from the Asia-Pacific region (AAJC 2015). Of the 10.9 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S., 14% (1.5 million) are from Asia (Migration Policy Institute 2014). In response to immigrant youth organizing, President Barack Obama initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, which offers temporary relief from deportation to approximately 2 million undocumented childhood arrivals (Ibid). Yet, the unique perspectives of AAPI youth have gone unheard, and their political activities have been rendered invisible in public discourse on undocu/DACAmented youth in the immigrant rights movement. This study aims to capture political identity formation through what I coin “dual liminality” that leads to political participation for undocu/DACAmented AAPI youth. It considers how their status as undocumented or DACA, as being marginalized from both mainstream and co-ethnic claims to belonging, helped them form a collective political identity and engage in political activities. The use of strategic storytelling (Polletta 2006) throughout the process of their political development also led to their return to organize co-ethnic communities against internalized stereotypes of both “Model Minority” and “Yellow Peril”. This study involves 12 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with politically active AAPI, ages 20–26, from four major cities on the East Coast, conducted between 2014 and 2015. The interviews demonstrate how these youths’ choices to reveal their status shape their collective identity formation that leads to their political engagement. Through strategic storytelling, they use their dual liminality to shape their narrative framing in both the immigrant rights and in AAPI communities, enhancing their political participation across inter-racial boundaries.

Suggested Citation

  • Loan Thi Dao, 2017. "Out and Asian: How Undocu/DACAmented Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Youth Navigate Dual Liminality in the Immigrant Rights Movement," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(3), pages 1-15, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:7:y:2017:i:3:p:17-:d:103229

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jennifer Howard-Grenville & Karen Golden-Biddle & Jennifer Irwin & Jina Mao, 2011. "Liminality as Cultural Process for Cultural Change," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(2), pages 522-539, April.
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    More about this item


    Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; youth; undocumented; DACA; collective identity; liminality; social movement;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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