Rethinking the Mobilities of Migrant Children and Youth across the Americas

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "International Migration".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 November 2023) | Viewed by 20850

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Anthropology & Sociology, Department of American Studies, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA
Interests: immigrant families; undocumented migration; transnationalism; gender; youth and childhood; rural sociology

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Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, University at Albany, Albany, NY 1222, USA
Interests: immigration; families; children; qualitative methods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are writing to invite your participation in a fall 2022 symposium titled “Rethinking the Mobilities of Migrant Children and Youth across the Americas”. It is our hope that the symposium will be held over two days, in person on the campus of the University of Albany. If an in-person gathering is not possible, we will gather virtually.

The papers selected for this symposium will comprise a Special Issue of the journal Social Sciences, with a tentative publication date of 2023. Social Sciences is an open access, internationally based, multidisciplinary journal that engages issues of timely social and political importance. One of the benefits of this publication outlet is the ability to quickly disseminate high-quality research to international audiences who may not have access to research through institutional settings. For information on the journal, see:  https://www.mdpi.com/journal/socsci, and for a recent Special Issue, see: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/socsci/special_issues/Immigration_and_White_Supremacy.

For this symposium and Special Issue, we aim to highlight child or youth-centric research focused on mobilities between and within countries in the Americas, or between the Americas and another location. We conceptualize mobilities broadly to include migrations, adoptions, legal status shifts, and second-generation migrant educational and social mobilities. We ask contributions to reflect on the gains of putting children or youth at the center of research inquiry. The goal is to explore what we gain from putting children or youth at the center of research inquiry, as it helps us to better understand (a) theories related to mobilities more broadly and (b) the policy implications of such research.

Prof. Dr. Leah C. Schmalzbauer
Dr. Joanna Dreby
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Social Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Latino migration
  • second-generation immigrants
  • immigrant educational mobility
  • deportation and return
  • illegality
  • immigrant childhood

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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20 pages, 416 KiB  
Article
Understanding the Mobilities of Indigenous Migrant Youth across the Americas
by Óscar F. Gil-García, Nilüfer Akalin, Francesca Bové and Sarah Vener
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(2), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13020091 - 31 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1159
Abstract
Enhanced immigration enforcement measures are now a dominant practice throughout the world. The concept of transnationalism, used by scholars to illuminate the complex dynamics these measures have across nation-state borders, has been critiqued for its replication of methodological nationalism—the assumption that the nation-state [...] Read more.
Enhanced immigration enforcement measures are now a dominant practice throughout the world. The concept of transnationalism, used by scholars to illuminate the complex dynamics these measures have across nation-state borders, has been critiqued for its replication of methodological nationalism—the assumption that the nation-state is a natural social and political form of the modern world. How then can migration scholars deepen the understanding of the mobilities of migrant children and youth without replicating methodological nationalism? We propose a relational socio-cultural analytic that synthesizes settler colonial theory and the theory of racialized legal status to comprehend the complex experiences of Indigenous migrant Maya youth and families throughout the Americas. Our use of a relational critical comparative analysis challenges structural functionalist approaches that limit the study migration dynamics within nation-state contexts, which can unwittingly sustain national membership in a state(s) as an aspirational emblem of belonging. We explore how Indigenous Maya experience and challenge the meaning of statelessness and the spillover effects of immigration enforcement measures along the US–Mexico and Mexico–Guatemala borders. We argue that a relational socio-cultural analytic lens serves as a powerful tool for understanding how nation-states co-produce stateless Indigenous populations and how these populations persist throughout the Americas and the world. Full article
25 pages, 418 KiB  
Article
Unaccompanied or Separated Migrant Children and Adolescents at the Colombian–Venezuelan Border: Loss of the Social Moratorium and Its Implications
by Carolina Ramírez-Martínez, Neida Albornoz-Arias, Leida Marcela Martínez Becerra and Karla Gabriela Tamayo Ramírez
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(12), 683; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12120683 - 12 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1378
Abstract
This study explains the Venezuelan migration involving unaccompanied or separated adolescents (UASA) on the Colombian–Venezuelan border, specifically in Norte de Santander-Táchira. This explanation is framed within the concept of the social moratorium, highlighting three subcategories that contribute to the early abandonment of childhood: [...] Read more.
This study explains the Venezuelan migration involving unaccompanied or separated adolescents (UASA) on the Colombian–Venezuelan border, specifically in Norte de Santander-Táchira. This explanation is framed within the concept of the social moratorium, highlighting three subcategories that contribute to the early abandonment of childhood: 1. the violation of rights, 2. working life, and 3. confrontation of dangers. These subcategories compel UASA to transition prematurely into youth, assuming social, labor, or family responsibilities. Methodologically, we adopt a narrative approach, conducting group interviews with 24 immigrant children and adolescents. Furthermore, 14 interviews are conducted in 2 local markets, and the remaining 10 on 2 central avenues in the city of Cúcuta, Colombia. We conduct a theoretical analysis drawing upon key concepts, including the social moratorium, social constructionism, interaction, and moral and cognitive development. This theoretical framework helps us understand the consequences for the life prospects of this generation. They arise from factors such as school dropout, exposure to health risks, and the absence of free leisure time. These indicators reflect socioeconomic problems, including poverty, abuse, and violence. Full article
15 pages, 539 KiB  
Article
Cross-Cultural Mobility and Agency in Assessing the Appropriateness of Child Supervision in the Context of Cultural Diversity and Migration in Quebec
by Mónica Ruiz-Casares, Richard Sullivan, Emilia Gonzalez, Patricia Li and Carl Lacharité
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(9), 515; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090515 - 14 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1145
Abstract
Confusion over what constitutes appropriate childrearing practices in culturally diverse settings may result in the stigmatization of ethnic minority families and over-reporting to child welfare services. This study explored stakeholders’ views on (in)adequate supervision across cultural and socioeconomic groups and how they assess [...] Read more.
Confusion over what constitutes appropriate childrearing practices in culturally diverse settings may result in the stigmatization of ethnic minority families and over-reporting to child welfare services. This study explored stakeholders’ views on (in)adequate supervision across cultural and socioeconomic groups and how they assess the risk of harm in cases of lack of supervision. Focus group discussions were held with (a) adult caregivers (n = 39) and adolescents (n = 63) in family-based care from French-speaking Quebecers and migrants from Latin America, the Caribbean, and South Asia; and (b) professionals (n = 67) in the education, health, child welfare, and security sectors in Quebec. The main criteria used to assess the appropriateness of supervision were the maturity, level of ability, age, and sex of the child, as well as contextual factors, such as proximity of other people, location, and type and duration of the activity. Mobility and immobility notions are used to explore the developmental considerations of competence and readiness within the home and in other social environments where adults’ and children’s perceptions of safety and maturity may differ, as well as the need to move away from rigid policy implementation. This paper advocates for careful consideration of the capacity and agency of children affected by migration in the provision of childcare support and their meaningful participation in research and decision making in matters that affect them. Full article
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19 pages, 329 KiB  
Article
The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic “Crisis” on Unaccompanied Minors Navigating US Removal Proceedings
by Chiara Galli
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(7), 373; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12070373 - 27 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1153
Abstract
Unaccompanied minors are among the most vulnerable undocumented immigrants facing removal proceedings in US immigration court. To avoid being sent back to violence and deprivation in their home countries, unaccompanied minors may apply for asylum or deportation relief for abandoned, abused, or neglected [...] Read more.
Unaccompanied minors are among the most vulnerable undocumented immigrants facing removal proceedings in US immigration court. To avoid being sent back to violence and deprivation in their home countries, unaccompanied minors may apply for asylum or deportation relief for abandoned, abused, or neglected children. The COVID-19 pandemic represented a crisis for American society that also had key impacts on immigrants’ lives and their ability to interact with state systems to apply for legal status and claim rights. This paper asks: (1) How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect unaccompanied minors’ social vulnerabilities in the US?; and (2) How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the US immigration bureaucracy and the work of nonprofit advocates who broker unaccompanied minors’ interactions with these state systems? Findings show that the pandemic exacerbated unaccompanied minors’ social vulnerabilities, with especially adverse effects on indigenous youths, those in legal limbo, unrepresented youths, and those experiencing job loss. The pandemic also disrupted the US immigration bureaucracy and, consequently, the work of advocates who broker immigrants’ interactions with these systems, making it more difficult to interact with traumatized youths to obtain necessary information for their cases, meet strict deadlines, and identify their needs. This case study provides lessons on how states and civil society strategically manage a “crisis” and discusses the implications for immigrants’ rights and vulnerabilities. Full article
16 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
Documentation Status and Youth’s Critical Consciousness across Borders
by Sarah Gallo and Melissa Adams Corral
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(4), 247; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12040247 - 19 Apr 2023
Viewed by 944
Abstract
Centering the testimonios of two sets of transborder high school seniors living and learning in Mexico and the U.S., in this article, we draw upon decolonizing approaches to theorize critical consciousness formation for and with students from families with mixed documentation status who [...] Read more.
Centering the testimonios of two sets of transborder high school seniors living and learning in Mexico and the U.S., in this article, we draw upon decolonizing approaches to theorize critical consciousness formation for and with students from families with mixed documentation status who cross physical and metaphorical borders. Data come from two larger qualitative studies on immigration and education and demonstrate how young people recognize inequity, critique it, and engage in a range of actions to counteract it. We argue that border-crossing youth draw upon personal experiences to critique and take action to change oppressive realities. We extend critical consciousness scholarship by bringing unique attention to the role of undocumentedness in critical consciousness formation. Full article
18 pages, 503 KiB  
Article
Geographies of Belonging: Migrant Youth and Relational, Community, and National Opportunities for Inclusion
by Sarah Bruhn and Roberto G. Gonzales
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(3), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12030167 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4321
Abstract
Migration research often focuses on exclusionary laws and social processes and how they impact children and the families they are embedded within. While important, this focus on harmful social structures can obscure forms of creative agency that are also inherent to young people’s [...] Read more.
Migration research often focuses on exclusionary laws and social processes and how they impact children and the families they are embedded within. While important, this focus on harmful social structures can obscure forms of creative agency that are also inherent to young people’s migration, even in the face of racialized immigration policies that erect barriers to integration. In this theoretical article, we contend that spaces of belonging, where connection, sustenance, and recognition are readily available, are equally essential to immigrant youth and families’ experiences of migration. We conceptualize how these spaces are constructed at the relational, community, and national level, demonstrating how place, including physical, legal, political, and cultural geographies, shape these multilayered opportunities for belonging. First, we demonstrate how place informs the relationships that young people form with each other, with their families, and with other adults, and how the care that can emerge from these relationships is a critical foundation for spaces of belonging. Second, we articulate the conditions that enable spaces of belonging at the community level by examining how the geographic features of neighborhoods and cities shape young people’s opportunities for agency and recognition beyond their immediate relationships. Finally, we address the national-level dynamics that foster spaces of belonging, while attending to the reality that migrant young people and their families often live transnational lives across nation-state borders. This paper offers new ways of understanding how place informs migrant youth and children’s sense of inclusion and agency, illuminating how spaces of belonging at the relational, community, and national level support their dignity and well-being. Full article
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16 pages, 309 KiB  
Article
From Potential “Nini” to “Drop Out”: Undocumented Young People’s Perceptions on the Transnational Continuity of Stigmatizing Scripts
by Eric Macias
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(2), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12020063 - 24 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1169
Abstract
Based on two years of ethnographic data gathered, including 81 h of life-history interviews and 70 h of participant observation with 10 youth who migrated to the United States from Central America, this paper argues that negative labels that often stereotypically depict immigrant [...] Read more.
Based on two years of ethnographic data gathered, including 81 h of life-history interviews and 70 h of participant observation with 10 youth who migrated to the United States from Central America, this paper argues that negative labels that often stereotypically depict immigrant youth experiences are often socially imposed on immigrant youth prior to migration. More specifically, this article examines youths’ understanding and perceptions of the ways in which family members employ socially available “stigmatizing scripts.” Stigmatizing scripts, as described by study participants, are often used by family members in an attempt to protect youth. Analysis of the data suggests that the youth experienced stigmatizing scripts as a way to describe their lives “at-risk” and in need of protection, while simultaneously criminalizing many of their experiences. Furthermore, the article details youth description of the transnational continuity of stigmatizing scripts by describing family members ‘usage of scripts but in the US context. The article expands on immigrant families’ scholarship, highlighting family dynamics and their impacts on youths’ wellbeing and families’ unintentional contribution in youths’ stigmatization and criminalization. Full article
15 pages, 304 KiB  
Article
Reconstructing Roots: Emotional Drivers of Migration and Identity
by Alexis M. Silver
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(2), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12020060 - 20 Jan 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1668
Abstract
This study examines how emotions propel migration from the United States to Mexico and subsequent migration within Mexico for young deported migrants and migrants compelled to return. Though often relegated to a second tier of importance after political or economic factors, emotions are [...] Read more.
This study examines how emotions propel migration from the United States to Mexico and subsequent migration within Mexico for young deported migrants and migrants compelled to return. Though often relegated to a second tier of importance after political or economic factors, emotions are central to the decisions that young migrants make about where to live and how to identify. I argue that emotions influence young immigrants in the U.S. to make life changing decisions to return to Mexico at moments of acute stress or uncertainty. Additionally, I argue that both compelled and deported return migrants carve out spaces of belonging and construct identities through emotional labor. Specifically, I find that young returnees draw on memories from the U.S., connections with other returnees, and imagined attachments to their ancestral cultures in Mexico as they adopt proud Mexican identities in surroundings that often mark them as outsiders on both sides of the border. Full article
19 pages, 348 KiB  
Article
“I’ve Lived Everything They Are Trying to Teach Me”: Latinx Immigrant Youth’s Ambivalent Educational Mobility in White Evangelical Universities
by Andrea Flores
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12010007 - 23 Dec 2022
Viewed by 1458
Abstract
Undocumented Latinx youth in Tennessee envision higher education as the single pathway to enable their upward economic and social mobility. Many of these young people enroll in private, historically white, Evangelical Christian colleges that provide financial support otherwise unavailable to undocumented youth. At [...] Read more.
Undocumented Latinx youth in Tennessee envision higher education as the single pathway to enable their upward economic and social mobility. Many of these young people enroll in private, historically white, Evangelical Christian colleges that provide financial support otherwise unavailable to undocumented youth. At the same time, university actors struggle to meet students’ other needs as undocumented and minoritized individuals. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I demonstrate how youth struggle with the hidden personal costs of educational access and the upward mobility it promises. Most significantly, Latinx immigrant youth must navigate the tensions between the ever-present legacy of racial segregation and animus in Evangelical traditions and their status as the embodiment of newfound, institutionally desirable “diversity.” As these students negotiate deeply racialized social and academic orders, they grow ambivalent about the promises of educational mobility, particularly if that mobility is contingent upon conforming to “respectable” forms of diversity. Centering youth’s ambivalence reveals both the contingent value of educational mobility to those experiencing it and the limits of university policies intended to increase educational access. Full article
19 pages, 837 KiB  
Article
Child Citizenship Status in Immigrant Families and Differential Parental Time Investments in Siblings
by Jocelyn Wikle and Elizabeth Ackert
Soc. Sci. 2022, 11(11), 507; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11110507 - 04 Nov 2022
Viewed by 1644
Abstract
This study describes how parental time investments in children in immigrant families vary according to children’s citizenship status. In families with multiple children, parents make allocation decisions about how to invest in each child. In immigrant households, a child’s citizenship status may shape [...] Read more.
This study describes how parental time investments in children in immigrant families vary according to children’s citizenship status. In families with multiple children, parents make allocation decisions about how to invest in each child. In immigrant households, a child’s citizenship status may shape parental time allocations because of how this status relates to a child’s prospects for socioeconomic mobility. It is unclear whether parents reinforce citizenship differences among siblings, compensate for these differences, or treat all siblings equally regardless of citizenship status. Moreover, past empirical research has not investigated differences in parental time investments in siblings with different citizenship statuses. To evaluate differential time investments in children based on citizenship, we conduct a quantitative analysis using data from the American Time Use Survey from 2003–2019 and focus on children in immigrant households with at least two children (N = 13,012). Our research shows that parents spend more time with children who have citizenship, but this result is primarily explained by a child’s age and birth order. Our study provides a basis for further inquiry on how legal contexts shaping socioeconomic mobility may influence micro-level family processes in immigrant households. Full article
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Review

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13 pages, 464 KiB  
Review
Uncovering Youth’s Invisible Labor: Children’s Roles, Care Work, and Familial Obligations in Latino/a Immigrant Families
by Vanessa Delgado
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12010036 - 05 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3486
Abstract
This paper examines Latino/a children’s roles and obligations to their immigrant families. Bridging insights from the literature on the “new sociology of childhood,” immigrant incorporation, and care work, this essay argues that children perform important—but often invisible—labor in immigrant families. Dominant ideologies depict [...] Read more.
This paper examines Latino/a children’s roles and obligations to their immigrant families. Bridging insights from the literature on the “new sociology of childhood,” immigrant incorporation, and care work, this essay argues that children perform important—but often invisible—labor in immigrant families. Dominant ideologies depict childhood as an “innocent” time wherein young people are in need of guidance and are too underdeveloped to make meaningful contributions. However, this construction of childhood ignores the lived realities of the children of immigrants, who often serve as gatekeepers and connect their families to services and resources in their communities. This essay examines six dimensions of support that the children of immigrants provide to their families, namely, language and cultural help, financial contributions, bureaucratic assistance, emotional labor, legal support, and guidance with technology. This essay concludes with implications for scholars, students, and policymakers on the importance of recognizing this labor, along with future directions for research. Full article
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