This dissertation examines contemporary issues that 18 (im)migrant university students faced during a time of highly militarized U.S.-Mexico border relations while living in Arizona during the time of this dissertation research. Utilizing critical race theory and public sphere theory as theoretical frameworks, the project addresses several related research questions. The first is how did (im)migrant university students describe their (im)migrant experience while they lived in the U.S. and studied at a large southwestern university? Second, what can (im)migrant university student experiences tell us about (im)migrant issues? Third, what do (im)migrant university students want people to know about (im)migration from reading their story?
Three conceptual constructs, each composed of three categories, that described the different (im)migrant experiences in this study emerged through data analysis. The first of these conceptual constructs was the racialized/ing (im)migrant experience that categorically was divided into systemic exclusions, liminal exclusions, and micro-social contextual exclusions. The second concept that emerged was the passed/ing (im)migrant experience where (im)migrant university students shared that they felt they had a systemic pathway to citizenship and/or that their immigration authorization gave them privilege. This concept was also categorically divided into systemic inclusions, liminal inclusions, and micro-social contextual inclusions. The last concept was the negotiated/ing (im)migrant experience, which described ways that (im)migrant university students negotiated their space/place in the public sphere while attending a large, public university in Arizona. As with the other two concepts, three categories emerged in relation to negotiated/ing (im)migrant experience: systemic negotiations, liminal negotiations, and micro-social contextual negotiations. It is (im)migrant university student experiences that give individuals a better understanding of the complexities that surround immigration. The (im)migrant narratives also highlight that inclusion and exclusion from the public sphere is a complex and dynamic process because all (im)migrant students, including U.S. citizens, experienced moments of inclusion and exclusion from the U.S. public sphere.