The risk of unaccompanied migrant youth

In “At the Crossroads: Youth at the Intersection of the Family and the State”, Lauren Heidbrink writes:

“In addition to being subjected to the vicissitudes of the war on terrorism and the war on immigrants, unaccompanied children also exist as a particular kind of palpable threat to the body politic. The view that children are somehow in the process of becoming and of being not-yet-socialized translates into the contested potentiality of migrant youth. On the one hand, the potential for socialization and rehabilitation offers some assurances to the state which seeks their allegiance; on the other, the malleability of impressionable youth elevates them open to forming suspicious or even danger allegiances with other states, criminals or terrorists. The diffuseness of terrorism leaves those allegiances simultaneously undetermined, yet in many respects, inconsequential. It is the fear of the relation of these youths’ potential influenced by violent terrorist organizations, that warrants additional attention and containment. Images of child soldiers from conflicts around the world and headlines about children as young as 14 training to be suicide bombers in Gaza, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan offer the public further proof to the capacity of children to commit terrorism. Unaccompanied migrant youth become yet another group of unencumbered, untrustworthy, born men requiring law-enforcement intervention to control the threat to he nation (see Bernstein and Lichtblau, 2005). While seemingly irreconcilable with the image of the hardened criminal incapable of rehabilitation, the still-malleable youth as a potential home-grown terrorist stems from social anxieties of violence and xenophobia. The out-of-place migrant youth transforms from at risk to the risk” (176).

As debates swirl around how to address the humanitarian crisis along the US/Mexico border, a new threat narrative forms and children are made “impossible subjects”.

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