Adultification of Immigrant Children
59 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020
Date Written: March 2020
Children occupy a “liminal childhood,” in the immigration legal system, as they are provided neither child-appropriate protections, nor necessarily the meager rights afforded to adults. At times, they are viewed through a protectionist lens, infantilized and robbed of agency. More commonly, however, immigrant children—largely teens of color—are subjected to adultification. Adultification refers to the phenomenon whereby children of color suffer a wide variety of negative outcomes across a diverse range of public systems, including education, juvenile justice, and child welfare, because they are perceived as more adult-like than their white peers.
This article casts new light on the mistreatment of children across the spectrum of immigration legal proceedings. To remedy the injustice of the current situation, I reimagine an immigration legal system founded in the principle of proportionality, which would recognize the vulnerabilities of and bias impacting migrant children. In particular, I argue that a reconceptualization of migrant children should incorporate lessons learned from failures within the juvenile justice system, which has been reckoning with problems of adultification and infantilization of children for more than a century.
Keywords: immigration, immigrant youth, children's rights, crimmigration, unaccompanied minor, deportation, migrant children, Due Process, Department of Homeland Security, Removal
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