Leisy Abrego

Associate Professor

Contact Information

Email    abrego@ucla.edu
Office  Bunche 7357
Phone  (310) 206-9414
Leisy J. Abrego is Associate Professor in Chicana/o Studies at UCLA. She is a member of the first large wave of Salvadoran immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1980s.

Her research and teaching interests—inspired in great part by her family’s experiences—are in Central American immigration, Latina/o families, the inequalities created by gender, and the production of “illegality” through U.S. immigration laws. Her award-winning first book,Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders(Stanford University Press, 2014), examines the well-being of Salvadoran immigrants and their families—both in the United States and in El Salvador—as these are shaped by immigration policies and gendered expectations. Her early research examines how immigration and educational policies shape the educational trajectories of undocumented students. Her second book,Immigrant Families (Polity Press, 2016), is co-authored with Cecilia Menjívar and Leah Schmalzbauer and delves deeply into the structural conditions contextualizing the diverse experiences of contemporary immigrant families in the United States. More recently, Abrego has been writing about how different subsectors of Latino immigrants internalize immigration policies differently and how this shapes their willingness to make claims in the United States. Her current project examines the day-to-day lives of mixed status families after DACA. Her scholarship analyzing legal consciousness, illegality, and legal violence has garnered numerous national awards. She also dedicates much of her time to supporting and advocating for refugees and immigrants by writing editorials and pro-bono expert declarations in asylum cases.


Ph. D., Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles, 2008.
M. A., Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles, 2002.
B. A., Spanish, Pomona College, 1997, Cum Laude

Selected Publications

Abrego, Leisy. 2011. “Legal Consciousness of Undocumented Latinos: Fear and Stigma as Barriers to Claims Making for First and 1.5 Generation Immigrants.” Law & Society Review. 45(2): 337-369.

Abrego, Leisy and Cecilia Menjívar. 2011. “Immigrant Latina Mothers as Targets of Legal Violence.” International Journal of Sociology of the Family. 37(1): 9-26.

Abrego, Leisy. 2011. “Review of Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and their Children, by Joanna Dreby.” Journal of Marriage and Family 73(2): 523-524.

Abrego, Leisy and Roberto Gonzales. 2010. “Blocked Paths, Uncertain Futures: The Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Prospects of Undocumented Latino Youth.” Journal of Education of Students Placed at Risk 15(1): 144-157.

Abrego, Leisy. 2009. “Rethinking El Salvador’s Transnational Families.” Special Issue “A New Day in El Salvador: The FMLN Victory and the Road Ahead.” NACLA Report on the Americas 42(6).

Abrego, Leisy. 2009. “Economic Well-Being in Salvadoran Transnational Families: How Gender Affects Remittance Practices.” Journal of Marriage and Family 71: 1070-1085.

Menjívar, Cecilia and Leisy Abrego. 2009. “Parents and Children across Borders: Legal Instability and Intergenerational Relations in Guatemalan and Salvadoran Families.” Pp. 160-189 in Across Generations: Immigrant Families in America. Nancy Foner (Editor). New York: New York University Press.

Abrego, Leisy. 2008. “Legitimacy, Social Identity, and the Mobilization of Law: The Effects of Assembly Bill 540 on Undocumented Students in California.” Law & Social Inquiry 33(3): 709-734.

Abrego, Leisy. 2006. “‘I can’t go to college because I don’t have papers’: Incorporation Patterns of Latino Undocumented Youth.” Latino Studies 4(3): 212-231. (Lead article)


Complex consequences of U. S. immigration laws; Central American migration; Immigrant and Transnational Families; Gender; Latino undocumented youth