Mexican/American Siblings
Credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Mexican/Mexican-American Siblings in the U.S.

The Impact of Undocumented Status on the Family, the Sibling Relationship and the Self

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 semi-structured 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.


Morales, A., and A. J. Consoli. 2019. “Mexican/Mexican-American Siblings: The Impact Of Undocumented Status On The Family, The Sibling Relationship, And The Self”. Journal Of Latinx Psychology 8 (2): 14. doi:


Graduate Student in Education

Funding Source

Chicano Studies Institute Faculty Seed Award