A 'Special Track' for Former Child Soldiers: Enacting a 'Child Soldier Visa' as an Alternative to Asylum Protection
69 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 26, 2013
Approximately 300,000 child soldiers currently serve in more than 30 conflicts around the world. The international legal community widely considers these children to be victims of severe human rights violations in spite of the atrocities that many of them commit. Although few of these children will ever make it to the United States, those who do manage to escape and arrive in the U.S. face a number of challenges in achieving immigration status. In general, advocates for child soldiers have focused on how the United States’ asylum laws could be changed to make it easier for former child soldiers to receive asylum status. In particular, the proposals have urged clarification of the definition of “particular social group” and incorporation of duress and infancy defenses into the exclusionary bars to asylum. These proposals, although they have merit, fail to acknowledge the floodgates and national security concerns that have likely stalled these needed changes to the asylum laws. This article offers a solution for child soldiers outside the context of asylum law: a Child Soldier Visa that applies only to former child soldiers and which attempts to reconcile the United States’ humanitarian and national security interests. While acknowledging the need to ultimately reform U.S. asylum laws so they conform to the Refugee Convention and state practice, this article discusses a solution that may be more realistic in the short-term than amending the asylum laws.
Keywords: asylum, child soldiers, immigration, human rights, national security
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