Mexican Immigrant Children and Youth's Contributions to a Community Centro: Exploring Civic Engagement and Citizen Constructions

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Emerald Publishing Limited


Purpose – The present study looks at the dynamic process of Mexican immigrant children and youth's civic engagement through their participation in community and family activities. In particular, it explores how their collaboration in a grassroots, immigrant community-based Centro in New York City allows for civic engagement. We demonstrate how active community participation, in the form of civic engagement, shapes children and youth's citizenship constructions.Methodology – Based on extensive participant observations and focus group interviews, this article demonstrates how children and youth's civic engagement is mediated by their integration and contributions to family and community civic activities and how these activities inform children and youth's knowledge of citizenship discourse. We present evidence that demonstrates that children and youth's involvement and participation in protests, rallies, volunteer activities, as well as the creation of a booklet, associated with immigration, human rights, and social justice, organized through the Centro Guadalupano, facilitated their knowledge about illegality and citizenship issues.Findings – Findings suggest that when indigenous Mexican children and youth are integrated into the important activities of their community, as active and engaged members, they develop a deeper understanding of civic engagement and what it means to be a participatory “citizen.”Research implications – The present study provides a starting point for future research on the importance of and possibilities for child and youth civic engagement in grassroots community organizations. For example, children and youth learn that through active civic participation and community contributions, they are able to challenge dominant discourse on immigration, human rights, and citizenship. This study sheds light on the value of involving children and youth in civic engagement opportunities – a process that can facilitate the construction of citizenship among marginalized groups, particularly undocumented Mexican immigrants from indigenous regions.Value – The findings presented extend broader discourses on the politics of immigration and citizenship, and also challenge, to some extent, mainstream constructions of children and youth. More research in these areas is needed; our paper is a small contribution to the emerging field of indigenous and immigrant children and youth's political socialization and activism.

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