This study uses survey data collected between March to June 2020 by the University of California Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity (UC PromISE). Participants were children of immigrants who were undergraduate students attending the UC system. The UC system is composed of nine campuses spread out across the state, including urban, sub-urban, and rural campuses. It is the more selective of the two California university systems and hosts a more traditional college student population, but its campuses vary in selectivity and study body demographics. Participants were recruited through emails and social media posts from each campus’ undocumented student support services office, faculty teaching large general education courses and ethnic studies courses, departmental and university office newsletters, and undocumented student organizations. Eligibility criteria included being over age 18, having at least one immigrant parent, and current enrollment as a UC undergraduate student. The survey was administered via Qualtrics  with an estimated completion time of 25–35 min (see supplemental files for survey instrument). Respondents received compensation via a $10 electronic gift card.
There were a total 2769 total survey respondents, of which 2331 were asked the COVID questions. We used list wise deletion to preserve respondents with non-missing values for all of the variables described in the two multivariate models below. The levels of missing for each variable were below 5%; the variable with most missing was gender (2.1%). Our final analytic sample size was 2111 (667 undocumented immigrant students, 648 U.S. citizen students with at least one undocumented parent, and 1427 U.S. citizen students whose parents have lawful immigration status). All project activities were approved by the UC Irvine Institutional Review Board.
Mental health and physical health
We had two outcome variables, the extent to which COVID-19 negatively affected a participant’s mental health and the extent to which COVID-19 negatively affected physical health. Response categories included “not at all”, “a little”, “a moderate amount”, “a lot”, and “a great deal”. We compared those who reported “a great deal” to “all others”.
Self/parental immigration status
This was the primary independent variable in our study. We categorized groups as undocumented immigrant students, U.S. citizen students with at least one undocumented parent, and U.S. citizen students whose parents have lawful immigration status. Undocumented students had to identify as being born outside of the United States and having no permanent legal status (e.g. no legal status, DACA, or another liminal legal status). Those with at least one undocumented parent had to identify as being born in the U.S. and have at least one immigrant parent with no permanent legal status. Those with immigrant parents with lawful status had to identify as being born in the U.S. and having parents who were lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens, either naturalized or U.S. born.
The survey included four items that asked about sense of belonging to the university, seeing self as part of the university community, being enthusiastic about the university, and being able to present the whole authentic self on campus. Each item had five responses, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. We summed across all four items to get a single score, which we mean-centered; a higher score indicated greater feelings of campus belonging.
Campus resource use was created by summing nine items measuring the frequency that respondents visited general campus resources broadly offered to the student body, such as academic support services, basic needs/food pantry, immigration-related legal services, student health center, and mental health counseling center. Response categories included “never”, “a few times a year”, “about once a month”, “about once a week”, and “more than once a week”. We mean-centered the sum and a higher score indicated more utilization of campus resources.
Covariates in our models included controls for race/ethnicity (Latina/o/x or not Latina/ox), gender (women or men), year in school (1st and 2nd years, 3rd years, and 4th years or higher), GPA (under 2.5 and 2.5 and over), campus, mother’s education level (less than high school, high school diploma/GED or some college, and bachelor’s degree or higher), and self and family economic strain (responses of yes or no to three questions: ever helped family members pay the bills, expect family will experience bad times such as poor housing or not having enough to eat, and expect family will have to do without the basic things your family needs).
We ran univariate descriptive statistics and bivariate statistics comparing COVID-related mental health, physical health, campus belonging, and campus resource use across the three student groups. Next, we conducted a series of logistic regression models to test our hypotheses. The first model examined the odds of reporting mental or physical health being affected “a great deal” by COVID by our immigration groups, adjusting for all of our covariates. This model provides adjusted differences in our outcomes across our three student groups of interest. The second model included campus belonging, interactions between campus belonging and student group, and all covariates. Because campus belonging is mean-centered, the coefficients for the student group differences can be interpreted as the odds for COVID-related mental or physical health outcomes at the mean campus belonging score. The interaction terms can be interpreted as the differences in the relationship between campus belonging and COVID outcomes relative to the referent group. The third model included campus resource use, interactions between campus resource use and student group, and all covariates. Similarly, because campus resource use is mean-centered, the coefficients for the student group differences can be interpreted as the odds for COVID-related mental or physical health outcomes at the mean campus resource use score. Likewise, the interaction terms can be interpreted as the differences in the relationship between campus resource use and COVID outcomes relative to the referent group. We calculated and graphed predicted probabilities for significant interactive effects to aid interpretation. We performed the same set of regression models for each of our outcome variables. All analyses were conducted using Stata 16.