“I am just like everyone else, except for a nine-digit number”: A Thematic Analysis of the Experiences of DREAMers


DREAMers, DREAM Act, Undocumented, Thematic Analysis, Phenomenology, Immigration


This qualitative thematic analysis study explored the experiences of DREAMers, undocumented students raised in the US awaiting the passage of the DREAM Act. We used a phenomenologically-informed textual analysis which resulted in a summary essence of the experience of DREAMers, describing how even though DREAMers are like other contributing members of society “except for a nine-digit number,” certain characteristics make their experience unique. Two websites containing experiences of individuals identifying as DREAMers as they wait for the passage of the DREAM Act, were analyzed to draw out specific themes that represented DREAMers’ experiences. Results revealed the following themes, Uncertainty about the Future, Resilience in Spite of Barriers, Education as a Form of Identity and Empowerment, the Influence of Time, Family Sacrifices for a Better Life, Disconnect from their Countries of Origin, the Meaning of “Undocumented,” and “Collective Survival.” These were summarized in a description of the essence of the phenomenon. These themes suggest implications for researchers and mental health professionals working with this population and highlight the significance of the unique experiences of DREAMers.

Original Publication Citation

Méndez-Pounds*, J., Nicholas*, D. A., Gonzalez*, N., & Whiting, J. B. (2018). “I am just like everyone else, except for a nine-digit number”: A thematic analysis of the Experiences of DREAMers. The Qualitative Report, 23(2), 442-455

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



The Qualitative Report




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor