Realities of Undocumented Immigrants Oral History (RUIOH) Project


The mission of the Realities of Undocumented Immigrants Oral History (RUIOH) Project is to collect stories to educate elected officials, policymakers, and other interested parties about the realities and humanity of undocumented immigrants in Nevada.

Project background

The RUIOH Project is collecting stories of the undocumented population in Nevada that demonstrate the humanity of participants before, during and after their undocumented status, reveal what participants find/found to be their specific resource needs while undocumented, as well as document concerns about immigration policies and practices at various governing levels.  The collection will focus on the stories of undocumented or formerly undocumented immigrants from all countries who currently or previously lived in Nevada.  The project has a goal of 20 fully-processed interviews.  Interview material will become part of the Special Collections and University Archives of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries and will be accessible on the internet.  The project will follow the standards of the Oral History Association.  The Project, expected to last through spring 2022, is directed by Dr. Jennifer Cullison, a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) Core Humanities program.  Lead interviewers are UNR student employees and volunteers, though members at partner organizations and others will also interview participants.

Funding and support

The project is being funded by Core Humanities at the University of Nevada Reno, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada Borderlands Justice Team, and the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra. We are thankful for input of various community organizations including Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada/Faith In Action (ACTIONN/FIA), Catholic Charities of Northern NevadaProgressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Make the Road Nevada (MRNV), and Tu Casa Latina.

Current team members

Jennifer Cullison

Jennifer Cullison, Ph.D.


Jennifer Cullison directed the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno. During the project, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Core Humanities program at University of Nevada, Reno. She received her Ph.D. in history at the University of Colorado Boulder. Before coming to Nevada, she most recently taught at Utah Valley University and the University of Colorado. Cullison is a specialist in U.S. history and global issues of race, migration and citizenship.

By invitation of the University of Pennsylvania Press, Cullison is preparing a manuscript proposal titled "Spawning a Hydra: The Policy and Practice of Immigrant Caging in Postwar America." The monograph will explore the growth of immigrant detention writ large in the U.S. since World War II – i.e. the growth not only of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and then Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, but that of all forms of human caging related to U.S. immigration policy.

A key part of the work, her detention policy history, reframes historical understanding of the rise and institutionalization of immigrant detention. Her case studies then focus on immigrant detention, detainee experience and related grassroots organizations in south Texas including Port Isabel, Brownsville, McAllen and Laredo. She using national, state and organizational archives and collections from Mexico and the U.S. For an interview highlighting some of the findings of her study, see CSPAN American History TV.

Mariana Delgado Ceniceros

Mariana Delgado Ceniceros

Research Assistant

Mariana Delgado Ceniceros is a lead interviewer, translator, and transcriber of undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) for Fall 2021.

She is a second-year undergraduate student at UNR. She is currently majoring in Management with a double minor in Dance and Human Resources.

Mariana lived in Mexico as a child, where she developed a love for her family’s culture. Determined to dominate the Spanish language, Mariana would practice reading, writing, and speaking the language at home while also taking classes throughout high school and obtaining the seal of Biliteracy issued by the state of Nevada.

When she is not studying, Mariana is passionate about volunteering and giving back. She was a teen assistant at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum, where she worked closely with many different families. She and her family also like to raise money to donate to various charities in Nayarit, Mexico, including elderly shelters, homes for abandoned children, and animal rescues.

This fall, the UNR Pack Research Experience Program (PREP) is generously funding Mariana's position.

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Volunteer interviewers

Laura Santiago

Laura Santiago is a volunteer interviewer for undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022.

Santiago is a master’s Graduate Student in the Communication Studies program at the University of Nevada, Reno. She is currently enrolled in her first semester and plans to work closely with the Latinx undocumented and DACAmented community to tell their narratives and examine the way in which citizenship discussions influences their relationships and identity. Through her work, she hopes to find and develop innovative and creative ways to address these communication concerns as well as identify and establish systems of support for the community.

Arturo Macias Franco

Arturo Macias Franco is a volunteer interviewer for undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022.

Arturo is a graduate student at UNR. Arturo completed his undergraduate studies at UNR in Veterinary Sciences and Agriculture, he defended his M.Sc. in Animal and Rangeland Sciences and is now a Ph.D. student in the Animal and Rangeland Sciences program also pursuing a M.Sc. degree in Statistics and Data Science. Originally from an agricultural hub of northern Mexico, his research incorporates mathematical models to increase productivity and sustainability of agricultural production systems especially related to water. Arturo seeks to help resolve and address agricultural and biological dilemmas through his research.

Gary Cortes Solis

Gary Cortes Solis is a volunteer interviewer for undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno for Fall and Spring 2021.

He is a second year undergraduate student at the University. He is currently majoring in Microbiology and Immunology with a minor in Spanish Language, Culture, Literature and in Analytical Chemistry. Gary's parents are originally from Mexico, however, Gary was born in Martinez, California and has lived all his life in the State capital of Carson City, Nevada. Gary understood the importance of having a strong understanding of Spanish as he knew it could aid him in his future. In high school he received the seal of biliteracy by the Board of Education in Nevada and has continued his education at the University.

Past team members

Melanie Mendez

Melanie Mendez

Research Assistant

Melanie Mendez was a lead interviewer, translator, and transcriber of undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno for Fall 2021. She is a senior undergraduate student at the University. She’s currently majoring in Journalism with an emphasis in Spanish Language Media and minoring in English Literature. She plans to graduate in the Spring of 2022.

Although Melanie’s parents are originally from Mexico, she was born in Reno, Nevada and eventually moved to Las Vegas where she completed the International Baccalaureate program in high school. As a first generation child of immigrant parents, Melanie spent the majority of her life translating for her parents while also helping them and eventually her sisters with important documents. Growing up in a bilingual household greatly increased her vocabulary skills and influenced her career of being a bilingual media reporter.

Mendez is passionate about her journalistic work and displays it through her job as the Spanish Language News Editor for the Nevada Sagebrush on campus. She hopes to one day work for a major Spanish news network such as Telemundo or Univision writing articles on the marginalized Latinx communities around the nation. Mendez envisions herself bringing light to issues that most news channels often ignore in hopes of influencing changes that will one day come to benefit the underserved of those communities. 

During her free time, Mendez often finds herself spending some much needed play time with her puppy Sugar or binge watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. It also isn't uncommon to stumble upon her doodling in her planner. She also prides herself in knowing a majority of the Nacho Libre movie script. 

Susana Ramirez

Susana Ramirez

Research Assistant

Susana Ramirez is a lead interviewer, translator, and transcriber of undocumented migrant stories for the RUIOH Project at the University of Nevada, Reno.  They also work for the President’s office of Diversity and Inclusion: Democratic Civic Engagement at the University.

They are a Master’s Graduate Student in the Sociology program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Ramirez is currently developing their thesis which is focused on indigenous women and social movements in Chiapas, Mexico. During their first year as a graduate student, they served as a presider for the 115th American Sociological Association Annual Meeting titled: Power, Inequality, and Resistance at Work.

In 2017, they received a dual Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Women’s Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno. As an undergraduate, they were a part of various clubs such as the Reno Justice Coalition, MEChA, among others. As a high school student, they received the Excellence in Spanish Proficiency award and an advanced diploma.

In the past they have been a guest lecturer for several undergraduate classes at both the University of Nevada, Reno and the College of New Caledonia, British Columbia Canada. They have also worked for several local community organizations such as the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra, Step2, and the Community Service Agency. As well as received several accreditations such as, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Certificate by National Institute of Crime Prevention, the Certificate for Historical Trauma, Trauma and Resilience in Indian Country by the Fallon Paiute/Shoshone Tribe’s Mental Health & Substance Abuse Program and the “Domestic Violence Response” certificate by the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.

They are passionate about, social justice, the environment, and helping uplift their community. In their free time, they like to volunteer at soup kitchens, and DJ a local radio station.