Life for child migrants is even harder beyond the US border

The following comes from an article I wrote for The Conversation:

Between 2003 and 2011, 8,000 to 40,000 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America were stopped every year on the southern border of the US. When this number boomed to more than 57,000 during the first nine months of 2014, president Barack Obama announced an “urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated Federal response” at the border.

In early July, Obama asked Congress for $3.7bn in emergency spending to increase man power and surveillance at the border, and expand facilities and legal services for detained children. Later in July, Obama met with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, from which many of these children come.

There have been many debates about the causes of this surge of child migrants, as well as the best strategies for addressing the trend along the border and abroad. But there has been little if any discussion about what happens to child migrants who successfully enter undetected. We can only speculate on the consequences of the US’s failure to address the crisis.

Since the summer of 2012, I have conducted observations and interviews with Guatemalan Maya young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who arrived as unaccompanied minors between four and 19 years ago. My research shows that violence and poverty are not things of the past for unaccompanied Central American children who come of age in the shadows.


USC Tomas Rivera Policy Institute: The Latino Middle Class

Earlier this year, Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo and I were asked to develop a microsite (read: resource page) for USC’s Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. Building on Jody Vallejo’s work centered on the Mexican-American middle class, the research highlighted on this site examines middle-class Mexican Americans and elite Latino entrepreneurs. We address important questions concerning immigrant socioeconomic mobility and assimilation.

Immigrants and their children are the future of American society and this research helps to contradict the one-dimensional and damaging images of poor, unauthorized, and unassimilable Latinos that are reinforced by media, pundits, and politicians.

For more on the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, click here.