You Can't Get Here from Here: Toward a More Child-Centered Immigration Law

30 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2008

See all articles by David B. Thronson

David B. Thronson

Michigan State University College of Law

Date Written: 2006


This article analyzes a serious conceptual flaw in immigration law related to its treatment of children. The extensive integration of immigrants into the broader population of families in the United States contrasts with several characteristics of the legal framework of immigration that create significant barriers to legal immigration for immigrant families. The article reveals how immigration law systemically devalues children and gives rise to a narrow, parent-centered conception of family. The article also uncovers the manner in which the excruciating complexity of immigration law can mask the ways in which seemingly innocuous immigration provisions work together to severely curtail immigration options for families in the United States. It examines the serious social consequences that result when families are unable to regularize the immigration status of all family members. Not only are immigrants and immigrant families marginalized, but citizen children in mixed status families are denied the full social benefits of citizenship as a variety of formal and informal barriers assimilate them to the status of noncitizen. Finally, the article discusses the underlying motivations for the current family immigration system and envisions a more child-centered approach.

Keywords: immigration, family, children, children's rights

JEL Classification: I30, K1, K10, K19, K3, K39, K4

Suggested Citation

Thronson, David B., You Can't Get Here from Here: Toward a More Child-Centered Immigration Law (2006). Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 14, p. 58, 2006, Available at SSRN:

David B. Thronson (Contact Author)

Michigan State University College of Law ( email )

648 North Shaw Lane
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

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