- State Against the Migrant Child:US Government Systems and Legal Processes in Dealing with Undocumented Youth
At a time when millions of people, including children, are fleeing from poverty, violence, and mortal danger, Deborah A. Boehm and Susan J. Terrio's Illegal Encounters: The Effect of Detention and Deportation on Young People adds to a global conversation about issues to do with migrant and refugee children. Donald Trump came to power in the US, promising, when so many are desperately seeking safety, to build a wall to stop illegal immigration from Central and South America to the North. This book clearly outlines the metaphorical wall of inhumane policies and laws that impact the lives of migrant young people in the US, highlighting the clear national mission to keep immigrants out or send them back to where they theoretically came from. Illegal Encounters features personal stories that describe how harsh immigration laws mean that families are separated in the deportation of young people, even though some have spent the majority of their lives in the US. Other stories focus on children who witness and suffer the deportation of other unauthorized family members. The tight immigration laws and policies in the US come from a long legacy of national "ideas about race, imperialism, and state power" (6); thus, the government holds much weight in restricting and controlling who is allowed into the country. Currently, the Trump administration has given increased power to immigration authorities by reducing immigrant protections and expanding concepts of "illegality" by blurring the difference between immigration and criminal law (6). The impact on migrant children has been profound, as detailed in Boehm and Terrio's comprehensive anthology.
The Illegal Encounters anthology addresses "young people's interactions or encounters with the different legal systems that regulate immigration" (2). The writings come from experts, who describe the complex range [End Page 340] of circumstances that make up this young, powerless migrant category and identify the challenges that these children face. In the US in 2018, of the "11 million unauthorized migrants living in the country, more than 2.5 million" are young people (8). Some undocumented children come into the US illegally with their parents, while almost a quarter of a million come alone. The book offers a multidisciplinary perspective to add to a growing immigration debate. Contributions come from a mix of academics, practitioners, as well as migrant youth, building an alarming picture of the ways youth are mistreated in a system that encourages them to remain vulnerable and outside the American legal system.
The scholars include academics from anthropology, education, sociology, and legal studies, while other contributions come from practitioners who work directly with young people, including social workers, attorneys, and judges. Importantly, the collection is unique in the way that the voices of young people are prioritized to highlight their personal experiences with the immigration process: all authors include quotations, stories, or details from interviews with migrant youth. For instance, the introduction begins with accounts of personal experiences and ends with a quote from a fifteen-year-old Colombian who questions Donald Trump's campaign to make America great again: "I would tell him that if America was not great, no one would want to come here. And I wouldn't be here" (14).
The legal systems of control that can apprehend, detain, and deport undocumented youth are strongly biased against them, resulting in many children remaining unauthorized and living on the social fringes. To probe the power imbalances of this system, the book is structured around three stages of government control, labelled in the book as, "in, through, and out" (5). These themes divide the book into three parts, and each has equal weight, consisting of three chapters and two short essays. The collection begins with "Part I – In: Confronting Enforcement, Detention, and Deportation" (15) and describes how youth enter in the government systems when they come into the country. They confront rough laws in the process of moving through, discussed in "Part II – Through: Navigating...