Unaccompanied Minors: Marginalized in the Education System




Gamez-Luna, Arlae
Romo, Harriett

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Office of the Vice President for Research


The number of unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs) from Central America significantly increased in 2014. More than 213,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection from the start of fiscal year (FY) 2014 through January 31, 2019 (U.S. Border Patrol, 2014-2019). These children are then transferred to the care of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The ORR agency is responsible for processing and sheltering unaccompanied children and youth under the age of 18 who are typically placed with a parent or other adult relative in the United States, a family friend, or in foster care. Unaccompanied minors wait months, even years, for their cases to be decided in immigration court. Legal representation heavily influences the ultimate decision of whether to allow informal relief or no proper legal status. Many children remain in the U.S. unauthorized. While unauthorized, they are not eligible for assistance programs, although the United States allows undocumented children a free K-12 education because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Plyler v Doe. This research explores attitudes in U.S. media toward these youth and what is happening regarding the educational opportunities for these unaccompanied minors. What kind of educational programs do they have access to when they are in detention or post-detention? What are the challenges faced on their educational journey? Research literature has been largely silent on the unique needs of these children including their unique educational needs.



unaccompanied immigrant minors, unaccompanied children, child immigrants, unauthorized minors, migrant youth