America's Disposable Youth: Undocumented Delinquent Juveniles

25 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2016 Last revised: 10 Apr 2016

Date Written: January 31, 2016


Through discriminatory rhetoric state and local officials construct delinquent juvenile immigrant youth as the embodiment of a threat to public safety and American values. Accordingly, alleged delinquent undocumented immigrant children who have spent the majority of their lives in the United States, are subjected to discrimination and exclusionary practices, which enable lessened protections under the law. This article critically analyzes how undocumented delinquent youth, mainly Latino males, are constructed through the various narratives of immigrant children that are perpetuated by the media and policymakers, and how this impacts their treatment within the juvenile justice and immigration systems. Central to this analysis is how the immigrant children’s multiple identities of race, class, gender and socio-economic status intersect and impact the Latino delinquent immigrant child’s interactions within these legal institutions. The article examines how increased interior immigration enforcement through the creation of state and local policies for the referral of delinquent immigrant youth to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin removal proceedings. In examining state and local policies, the article considers the inherent bias and the targeting of particular groups that may develop from varied state and local policies that are not uniform and based on the discretion of political actors. Overall, this article takes a critical look at the contrasting ways in which vulnerable undocumented immigrant youth are defined within these legal systems and how the “othering” of Latino male youth facilitates decreased guarantees of substantive legal protections and due process rights, which reinforce existing hierarchies and stereotypes.

Keywords: Immigration, Juvenile, Delinquent, Deportation

Suggested Citation

McKanders, Karla Mari, America's Disposable Youth: Undocumented Delinquent Juveniles (January 31, 2016). Howard Law Journal, Vol. 59, No. 1, 2015, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 287, Available at SSRN: or

Karla Mari McKanders (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University, School of Law ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-3092 (Phone)

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