Unpacking Resilience and Trauma: Examining the “Trump Effect” in Higher Education for Undocumented Latinx College Students

  • Susana M. Muñoz Colorado State University
  • Darsella Vigil University of Denver
  • Elizabeth Jach Colorado State University
  • Marisela Rodriguez-Gutierrez Colorado State University
Keywords: Dreamers; undocumented students; racist nativism; DACA; higher education


In response to the “Trump Effect”, or the negative climate in education following President Trump’s election, we examine the ways in which anti-immigration rhetoric from the recent election cycle and the elimination of DACA has influenced college experiences and trajectories of undocumented Latinx students. Using critical race theory, along with literature on trauma and resilience, we based our findings on three focus groups with 16 undocumented student participants, and highlight four emergent themes: (1) citizen fragility seemed pervasive and finding hope was deemed as challenging; (2) students experienced an increase of emboldened racist nativism on their college campuses; (3) the exploitation of undocumented student labor; and (4) shared solidarity was beneficial for student resilience. Findings illuminate how colleges and universities need to reconceptualize the notion of resilience by addressing systemic racist nativism in higher education.