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Whose Child Am I?

Whose Child Am I?: Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody

Susan J. Terrio
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Whose Child Am I?
    Book Description:

    In 2014, the arrest and detention of thousands of desperate young migrants at the southwest border of the United States exposed the U.S. government's shadowy juvenile detention system, which had escaped public scrutiny for years. This book tells the story of six Central American and Mexican children who are driven from their homes by violence and deprivation, and who embark alone, risking their lives, on the perilous journey north. They suffer coercive arrests at the U.S. border, then land in detention, only to be caught up in the battle to obtain legal status.Whose Child Am I?looks inside a vast, labyrinthine system by documenting in detail the experiences of these youths, beginning with their arrest by immigration authorities, their subsequent placement in federal detention, followed by their appearance in deportation proceedings and release from custody, and, finally, ending with their struggle to build new lives in the United States. This book shows how the U.S. government got into the business of detaining children and what we can learn from this troubled history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96144-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. 1 The American Dream
    (pp. 1-18)

    On September 5, 2012, Benita Veliz, an undocumented youth advocate from San Antonio, Texas, took the podium during prime-time coverage of the Democratic National Convention. She made a plea for immigration reform and urged fellow Latinos to reelect President Barack Obama because, she said, “he fought for my community.” Benita was brought to the United States as a child “like so many Americans of all races and backgrounds.” Unlike most of her U.S. citizen peers, Benita graduated at sixteen as the valedictorian of her high school and finished college at twenty with a double major, a record that would have...

  6. 2 Which Way Home?
    (pp. 19-52)

    Rebecca Cammisa’s 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary,Which Way Home, follows Central American children on the 1,450-mile journey through Mexico en route to the United States on top of a freight train known as the Beast (la Bestia). The film opens with the image of a bloated corpse caught in the swift current of the Rio Grande. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents identify the body as that of a minor who drowned trying to cross into the United States. This death marks the end of one child’s American Dream. It also serves as a cautionary tale. We meet Kevin, a streetwise...

  7. 3 The Least Restrictive Setting
    (pp. 53-75)

    U.S. Border Patrol officers apprehended Maribel immediately after she crossed the border in 2007. She was designated as unaccompanied and detained in a minimum-security federal facility in Los Fresnos, Texas, that housed 160 minors. Maribel vividly remembered being overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness and anxiety. She never understood why government protection required that she be held for six months in a facility that she was not permitted to leave.

    So they took us to a shelter in Texas. I didn’t wanna be there because I was afraid they were going to kick me out. … I went there and I...

  8. 4 Placement in Federal Custody
    (pp. 76-105)

    Ernesto was completely disoriented after his transfer to an ORR shelter. You don’t know what’s going to happen. On the second day in that [Border Patrol] station I still didn’t know anything and I asked, “Why do they send me here?” The [Border Patrol] guy said, “What difference does it make? You’re leaving.” Later they brought in three more kids, and we asked them again, “Where are we going?” They said, “Don’t ask!” We were so afraid. Were they going to take us somewhere and kill us? Then they took us to a shelter in Nixon, Texas. That was in...

  9. 5 In Custody
    (pp. 106-135)

    Soon after a child’s arrival in custody, case managers in the ORR facility and the district field coordinators affiliated with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services in Baltimore, Maryland, conducted intake interviews to gather information on his or her family, migration, and medical histories.¹ DFCs also gave orientation presentations to new arrivals. At a Texas shelter orientation in March 2010, the DFC explained that he was there to assist with safety, food, and health concerns but, most of all, to organize family reunification. “I am not an attorney,” he said, “and so I cannot give you any legal advice. I don’t...

  10. 6 Release
    (pp. 136-160)

    In early 2010 I attended the orientation on family reunification given by DFCs to eleven new arrivals at a large shelter in Phoenix. They were part of a larger group of forty teenagers who had been apprehended near the Arizona border between December 22 and January 10, 2010. That day there were four girls and seven boys in the group, all sixteen or seventeen years old. Six came from Guatemala, two from El Salvador, and three from Mexico, figures that matched the nationalities already at the shelter. All but one claimed that this was their first time in the United...

  11. 7 Immigration Court
    (pp. 161-192)

    Historically children have been neglected and often intentionally excluded in U.S. immigration policy and the law. When unaccompanied children are prosecuted for immigration violations, even the youngest respondents find themselves alone in removal proceedings before immigration judges and ICE trial attorneys without assistance from immigration attorneys or child advocates.¹ Although children can independently seek humanitarian forms of immigration relief, such as asylum and protection from removal under the Convention Against Torture, they are held to the same substantive criteria, evidentiary requirements, and burden of proof standards as adults. In the one-size-fits-all approach, children have to defend against removal by proving...

  12. 8 The New American Story
    (pp. 193-204)

    This book began with a quote from the undocumented Dreamer activist Benita Veliz at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. She had seized every opportunity and succeeded against all odds. Yet compared to other young Americans from humble beginnings who surmounted daunting obstacles, Benita could expect no reward, only the prospect of permanent temporariness. Her situation reflects the porous boundary between legality and illegality in immigration law, illustrating how shifting legal categories work to transform otherwise worthy insiders into criminal outsiders. Her very presence on a national stage pointed to the contested use of the law to criminalize the undocumented and...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 205-208)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 209-230)
  15. Acronyms and Abbreviations
    (pp. 231-232)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-246)
  17. Index
    (pp. 247-262)