Children and Youth: Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised by the Current U.S. Immigration Regime

Marietta Messmer

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    Focusing on undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the US by their parents at a young age (the so-called 1.5 generation) and US citizen children living in irregular or mixed-status immigrant families, this essay argues that the current US immigration regime is too strongly adult-centered and in this way not only systematically disenfranchises immigrant children but also structurally disadvantages US citizen children living with at least one undocumented parent because the parent’s irregular status in practice tends to extinguish the child’s citizen status. Analyzing the US’s current immigration regime through the lens of under-age youth can thus function as an enabling prism to highlight the extent to which current US immigration laws and policies collide with both national and international legal practices and produce inherently contradictory or paradoxical situations; it can throw into relief the extent to which children (even US citizen children) lack sufficient agency and voice in current US immigration law; and it can foreground the deleterious consequences of the current immigration regime’s prioritization of deterrence and deportation for one of the most vulnerable segments of the US population for whom not even DACA can provide sufficient protection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-66
    Number of pages30
    JournalReview of International American Studies (RIAS)
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 30-Dec-2018

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