Abstract

Each year, over 100,000 children are apprehended entering the United States unaccompanied by parents or legal guardians, and without valid immigration documents. As many as 8,000 of these children are placed in an elaborate system of border patrol detention centers, shelter facilities, and courts. While the Department of Health and Human Services (through the Office of Refugee Resettlement) funds programs that care for the undocumented immigrants, the Department of Justice, (through the Department of Homeland Security) sweeps up and deports the very same children (or their parents). Apprehended children therefore bring to light the competing agendas of security and humanitarianism. Based on interviews with policy makers and program officers, visits to the shelters, and interviews with the children, this article explores the politics of compassion surrounding these migrants. In order to provide more humane and egalitarian response to the migration, the tensions and contradictions inherent in current practices need to be made more conscious. Considering migration from Mexico, Central America, China, and India, the paper challenges the racially and ethnically-coded system that protects some children more than others. Rather than dismantling the politics of compassion, what is needed is a clearer understanding of the children's paths to the United States, and a system without the racial and ethic hierarchies that are currently in place. Otherwise, children will be confined to the space between the war on terror that treats immigrants, even below the age of 18, as security threats, and politics of compassion that emerged from early 21st century immigration reform.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1518
Print ISSN
0003-5491
Pages
pp. 833-871
Launched on MUSE
2008-12-25
Open Access
No
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