Navigating the figured world of the unaccompanied alien child




Encarnacion, Nancy

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Navigating the Figured World of the Unaccompanied Alien Child This qualitative study draws from political, legal and socio-cultural perspectives to examine the unprecedented phenomenon of unaccompanied children who migrate alone through Central America and Mexico and enter the United States from the U.S. / Mexican border. They are primarily from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and most are between 14 and 17 years of age. The research questions guiding this study examine the experiences of the unaccompanied alien child in navigating the legal, political and social systems throughout the migration journey and after entering the United States, as well as their motivations for migrating and the resources utilized in the migration process. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data from nine participants identified as unaccompanied alien children. The first chapter presents a historical perspective of the immigration laws pertaining to this population of children; the second chapter examines the relevant literature that has informed this study and the theoretical perspectives guiding it. The third chapter includes the methodology utilized to collect and analyze the data. Chapters four, five and six describe the findings, implications and conclusions drawn from this study which point to an urgent need for policies that adhere to the best interest of the child principle by ensuring access to comprehensive legal and social services, as well as culturally responsive educational programs. The results of this study can assist educators of these children as they enroll in our nation's public schools, as well as other decision-makers in creating effective, judicious policies that are in the best interest of this vulnerable population.


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Central America, education, immigration, Unaccompanied minors



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies