First Advisor

Softas-Nall, Basilia

Date Created



The purpose of this qualitative study was twofold: (a) to obtain a deep understanding of the phenomenon of being undocumented in the United States based on undocumented Mexican immigrants’ experiences and perceptions and (b) to identify how immigrants’ mental health was impacted by the phenomenon. A phenomenological research design was employed in this study and saturation was reached after a total of eight participants were interviewed. Several common themes emerged that described the participants’ experiences in varying aspects of their lives: low wages; guilt; fear of driving; financial difficulties; social isolation; limitations exclusive to undocumented immigrants such as limited access to healthcare, no higher education opportunities, limited employment opportunities; feeling invisible in the U.S. culture; legal problems related to immigration; a psychological impact including psychological distress, stress, lacking in self-confidence, feeling of disillusionment, cultural adjustment difficulties, tolerating injustices; and seeing more opportunities than in Mexico. Participants also provided recommendations for mental health professionals in working with undocumented Mexican immigrants. The findings of this study supported the speculation that if an immigrant has an undocumented legal status, he or she might be at risk of experiencing higher acculturative stress and poorer mental health than immigrants with documented legal status. Furthermore, additional information in the area of multicultural competencies for counseling psychologists might be gained through obtaining a more in-depth understanding of the lives and challenges of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Through such understanding and knowledge of the experiences of undocumented Mexican immigrants, a broader context into the lives of this population could be obtained and empathic insights, in turn, might develop toward them.

Abstract Format



Illegal aliens -- Mexico; Mexico -- Emigration and immigration -- Psychological aspects; Undocumented immigrants; Mental health; Minorities; Phenomenological studies; Qualitative studies


195 pages

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