Central American Unaccompanied Minors in the U.S.: Motivation for Migration and Precarious Status in the Host Society

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Eric POPKIN, Colorado College, USA
Rachel MAREMONT, Colorado College, USA
This paper explores the motivations and precarious legal status of unaccompanied child migrants who arrived in the United States from Central America in the spring and summer of 2014. There is a long history of migration from Central America to the United States for a variety of economic, political, and environmental reasons, many of which can be understood in the context of sociological theories of migration. However, the recent surge in migration from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala indicates a significant change in patterns of migration, particularly among children. Most children are fleeing violence from gangs and other criminal organizations, lack of economic or educational opportunity, or domestic abuse in their home countries. Once in the United States, however, many find themselves unable to regularize their legal status due to procedural and political concerns about accepting large numbers of immigrants. These findings have important implications for both this population of vulnerable children and for the United States’ immigration system. This study draws on screenings conducted by a nonprofit organization with 1,349 children held in Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters and uses quantitative methods to examine the associations between children’s reasons for migration and their age, gender, country of origin, and indigenous status.