Children Of A Lesser God: Reconceptualizing Race In Immigration Law

Hamilton-Jiang, Sarah L | October 1, 2019

The increased public exposure to the experiences of Latinx unaccompanied children seeking entry at the United States southern border has revealed the lived reality of the nation’s pernicious immigration laws. The harrowing experiences of unaccompanied children are amplified by their interaction with a legal system plagued by a legacy of systemic racism and sustained racial caste. While immigration law currently affords minimal legal protections for these children, in application, the law continues to fall egregiously short of providing for the safety of unaccompanied children. Though critics have long attested to the legal system’s neglect of unaccompanied children, subsequent legal analysis has overlooked the intersectional role of race as it pertains to their attempts to navigate entry. This Article uses the concept of racialization to explore the legal treatment of Latinx unaccompanied children as they navigate entry to the United States. This Article demonstrates that the legal framework creates structural inequality for Latinx unaccompanied children through a concept known as “adultification.” Further, racist social and political narratives are incorporated into the law which contribute to the racialization of Latinx unaccompanied children and challenges the very vulnerability that lies at the foundation of the legal protections available for children. The Article concludes with a proposed intersectional vulnerability framework that reconceptualizes race and strengthens the rights and protections of unaccompanied children.