• Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Mexican/American Siblings: The Impact of Undocumented Status on the Family, the Sibling Relationship, and the Self

Funding Source:  Chicano Studies Institute
Principal Investigator: Dr. Andres Consoli, Associate Professor Counseling, Clinical & School Psychology
Post Doctoral Scholar:  Ana Romero Morales

Immigration status can positively or negatively influence the relationship between undocumented and United States-citizen siblings, bringing them closer or creating conflict. Promoting positive relationships among mixed-status siblings may serve as an additional buffer against the stressors faced by many undocumented youth.

There are about 4.4 million undocumented children and young adults under the age of 30 living in the United States, the largest group being Mexican nationals. The differences in legal status found in mixed-status sibling relationships (i.e., a United States-citizen and an undocumented sibling) can be an additional stressor or potentially a protective factor that can buffer the challenges of being undocumented. This qualitative study explored the lived experiences of nine undocumented students who have at least one United States-citizen sibling. A semistructured interview protocol was used to explore how immigration status affected the relationship of mixed-status siblings and family dynamics from the perspective of the undocumented sibling. Using thematic analysis, three themes were identified: “It has brought us closer”: mixed feelings in the parent-child relationship; “Don’t take it for granted”: gratitude and frustration in the sibling relationship; and “Now, I am proud”: the trajectory of the undocumented sibling’s relationship to self. Undocumented participants punctuated the trajectory of their sibling relationship and family dynamics with experiences of conflict and bonding. They expressed feelings of resentment, jealousy, gratitude, and closeness toward their siblings and family members. They spoke about their trajectory toward developing an empowered sense of identity that they believed set them apart from their United States-citizen siblings. The findings underscore how immigration policies have the potential of shaping the relationships within the family, between siblings, and with oneself. Moreover, findings have implications for clinicians working with mixed-status siblings and their families, as well as for informing public policies.

Publications: American Psychological Association

Affiliated Faculty

Advisory Committee; Associate Professor
Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

Professor Consoli was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he received a licenciatura degree in clinical psychology at the Universidad de Belgrano (1985). He earned a Masters (1991) and doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (1994), and received postdoctoral training in behavioral medicine in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine (1994-1996). Prior to joining UCSB Andrés was professor and associate chair of the Department of Counseling, College of Health and Social Sciences, at San Francisco State University (1996-2013). Dr. Consoli's professional and research interests involve transnational collaborations, multicultural supervision, psychotherapy integration and training, systematic treatment selection, ethics and values in psychotherapy, access and utilization of mental health services within a social justice framework, and the development of a bilingual (English/Spanish) academic and mental health workforce.