Model Illegal Alien: How Undocumented Asian Americans “Deserve” Citizenship



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This thesis explores how DACA and the model minority stereotype affect self and public perceptions of undocumented Asian American immigrants. An undocumented Asian American immigrant was interviewed in depth about their life in regards to their documentation status(es) and other forms of public media (videos, books, online articles) detailing the lives of undocumented immigrants were analyzed. Along with these sources, public reactions in the form of online, user-generated comments were recorded to gain insight into how attitudes are shaped from certain messages promoted by media. By juxtaposing both the ideas of citizenship promoted through DACA and the model minority stereotype, the many factors that affect how undocumented Asian Americans are made more presentable for citizenship in the eyes of the American public are explored. Additionally, definitions of DACA are explored based on how it interacts with and emulates the model minority stereotype. This thesis finds that undocumented Asian Americans are seen as more deserving of citizenship because of racial stereotypes and arguments in favor of economic contribution and social assimilation. This idea of proving one is deserving of citizenship through contributions no born citizen of the United States is required to prove indicates racism reiterated over and over again in American rhetoric of belonging.





Zhang, Muyi (2019). Model Illegal Alien: How Undocumented Asian Americans “Deserve” Citizenship. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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