Undergraduate Research in Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies

Pomona is a community of daring minds. It is a place for students who are venturesome by choice, who have talent, passion, and independence of spirit, and who are prepared to dream big and work hard in order to make a difference in the world.

One way that Pomona College provides opportunities for students to excel is through research opportunities. Conducting research as an undergraduate not only gives students an advantage when applying for fellowships or graduate school; it also gives them a chance to tackle real-world problems and to find out what it’s like to be treated as colleagues by their professors, many of whom are the leading experts in their fields.

Boricuas in the Ranks: Puerto Rican Military Service in the Post 9/11 Era

Lerick Gordon-Cuevas ’22; Advisor: Tomas Summers Sandoval

From the World Wars of the 20th century to the current “War on Terror‚” Latinas/os have served across all branches of the U.S. military, answering the call of duty and putting their lives on the line for their host country. But while there is a wealth of information and research on Chicano/Mexican-American veterans from WWI to the Vietnam era, there is still much research to be done on Puerto Rican veterans, especially from the post 9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of this gap in the scholarship on Latinx military service, my RAISE project further explored the experiences of Puerto Rican veterans who’ve served during the post 9/11 era through a series of oral history interviews I conducted with current and former servicemembers. I analyzed what factors motivated these women and men to enlist, what they experienced both in the U.S. during their training and overseas in combat and how their Puerto Rican identity influenced their service as a whole. I also looked at the various intersections of socioeconomic class, gender and geographic location within this group of Boricua servicemembers and how these many identities shaped their military service as well. By conducting my research, I was able to find that these Puerto Rican vets chose to serve for many reasons (upward social/economic mobility, familial ties to the military, etc.). Many vets described their service as a chance to learn more about the world and themselves through their experiences in the military while also acknowledging the physical/emotional tolls they’ve endured. And vets’ Boricua identity influenced their service primarily through familial ties to the military, and servicemembers’ ability to connect with other Puerto Rican/Latinx/POC soldiers because of shared experiences and identities. Future research can and should be conducted on how race, sexuality, and nationalism shape the experiences of Puerto Rican veterans who have served as well as conducting a comparison between veterans of previous conflicts like Vietnam and WWII to servicemembers of the last 20 years.

Litigating a Life: Holistic Defense for Immigrants in Removal Proceedings

Grace Campos ’22; Advisor: Gilda Ochoa

It is often said that immigration court is death penalty cases litigated in a traffic court setting. The process is dehumanizing from the first hearing— detained immigrants are not brought to court, but instead displayed on a grainy monitor via video-conference.

Through applying the holistic defense model to deportation defense, The Bronx Defenders (BxD) has radically changed the power dynamic in the courtroom. Rather than face the State alone, the individual is given a team of advocates comprised of social workers, immigration civil legal advocates, and attorneys. Unlike criminal defense lawyers, who are tasked with arguing the facts of an isolated incident, immigration advocates are expected to defend a person’s entire life both within and outside of the United States— rendering a holistic approach to immigration defense especially important. Given the recent surge in immigrants facing deportation, I argue the urgency to expand the holistic immigration defense model to a national level. However, such an expansion would limit access to resources and makes referrals to other practice areas nearly impossible— a shortcoming that can be seen within BxD’s detained immigrant defense practice (NYIFUP), the only area of the organization that has funding to defend clients outside of The Bronx. To come to my conclusions, I drew upon field notes from client meetings, interviews of six advocates, and observations from hearings and community intake at the Varick Street immigration court