Questioning Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Lessons from Developmental Science on Forensic Interviewing

Posted: 14 Nov 2019

See all articles by Jodi Quas

Jodi Quas

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: November 11, 2019

Abstract

The challenges of dealing with the influx of immigrant children at the United States’ borders are profound. Approximately 5,000 to 10,000 unaccompanied children, including many young adolescents, arrive each month at the southwestern border. To determine whether these children will be given safe haven in the United States, authorities question them about their origins and family background, traveling companions, decision-making competency, history of abuse and violence exposure, and risk of being smuggled and trafficked. In this context, children are at significant risk of reporting their experiences incompletely or inaccurately, which can affect life-altering decisions about their immigration status. Decades of scientific research have demonstrated how to interview children to obtain accurate and complete reports of their experiences, competencies, and attitudes. This evidence highlights the critical need for clear protocols regarding when and how children should be interviewed, including how questions should be phrased. Research also points to the necessity for extensive training of professionals who conduct the interviews.

Suggested Citation

Quas, Jodi and Lyon, Thomas D., Questioning Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: Lessons from Developmental Science on Forensic Interviewing (November 11, 2019). SRCD Child Evidence Brief, No. 6, October 2019; USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS19-33; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 19-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3485056

Jodi Quas (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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