In 2014, the arrest and detention of thousands of desperate young migrants at the southwest border of the United States exposed the U.S. government's shadowy juvenile detention system, which had escaped public scrutiny for years. This book tells the story of six Central American and Mexican children who are driven from their homes by violence and deprivation, and who embark alone, risking their lives, on the perilous journey north. They suffer coercive arrests at the U.S. border, then land in detention, only to be caught up in the battle to obtain legal status. Whose Child Am I? looks inside a vast, labyrinthine system by documenting in detail the experiences of these youths, beginning with their arrest by immigration authorities, their subsequent placement in federal detention, followed by their appearance in deportation proceedings and release from custody, and, finally, ending with their struggle to build new lives in the United States. This book shows how the U.S. government got into the business of detaining children and what we can learn from this troubled history.
List of Illustrations
1. The American Dream
2. Which Way Home
3. The Least Restrictive Setting
4. Placement in Federal Custody
5. In Custody
7. Immigration Court
8. The New American Story
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Susan J. Terrio is Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. She is author of Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice and Crafting the Culture and History of French Chocolate.
"A powerful and timely exposure of the institutional violence suffered by migrant minors in federal custody who are being detained under two competing agendas—mandatory detention in custodial facilities and removal proceedings in immigration courts. . . . Whose Child Am I? underscores the imperative of immigration reform for both practical and humanitarian reasons."—New York Journal of Books
"This volume is neither conservative nor liberal. It is a balanced presentation of the system, pro and con, for handling undocumented children who come to this country on their own or because they are brought here. . . . Incredibly readable and insightful. An exceptional book that does real justice to an enormously important topic. . . . Highly Recommended."—K. E. Murphy, CHOICE connect
"How did the US government get into the business of detaining thousands of unaccompanied children every year? How did this become the dominant paradigm for dealing with very young and vulnerable migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America? These questions are urgent and topical as the US confronts massive inflows of unaccompanied child migrants along its southern border. With masterful and accessible prose, Susan Terrio answers these questions. She combines poignant attention to human detail with an impressive grasp of relevant history, law, policy and practice. Essential reading for anyone interested in one of the US's most urgent contemporary human rights challenges."–Jacqueline Bhabha, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard University.
“Whose Child Am I
? is a comprehensive, provocative, and richly detailed ethnography of the experiences of unaccompanied minors as they traverse the US immigration system. Drawing on hundreds of hours of observations and in-depth interviews with youth and immigration authorities, Terrio helps us to understand both the youths’ struggles and the realities of detention centers, where humanitarian interests collide with a punitive enforcement approach. This unique and beautifully written analysis is a “must read” for anyone concerned about children traveling alone to escape violence and devastating poverty in their homelands, and their experiences with the US immigration system.”–Marjorie S. Zatz, University of California, Merced
"Susan Terrio spent three years gathering data and draws on a wide range of sources, including ethnographic work in and visits to federal facilities, attending conferences organized by nonprofits, observing immigration court hearings, and interviewing judges, advocates, and child migrants themselves. It is rare to bring together these disparate sorts of material, so that is a contribution in and of itself. The book will be essential reading for courses on immigration or on child immigrants."–Susan Bibler Coutin, Associate Dean, University of California, Irvine, author of Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants’ Struggle for U.S. Residency