Understanding Secondary Immigration Enforcement: Immigrant Youth and Family Separation in a Border County (Nina Rabin, Journal of Law and Education, 47 (1), 2018).

In debates over immigration reform, young people in immigrant families are often characterized as a distinct population, with claims and interests entirely separate from those of their parents. Bifurcating the undocumented population between children and parents over-simplifies how immigration enforcement impacts families. This article challenges the dichotomy between children and parents by studying how young people, regardless of their own immigration status, are harmed by immigration enforcement aimed at their parents. These impacts, which I call “secondary immigration enforcement,” often manifest as family separations.

Deportation statistics alone fail to capture the complex impacts of secondary enforcement. To render secondary immigration enforcement visible, I engaged in a qualitative study of the experiences of thirty-eight young people in Arizona who are living on their own–without either biological parent–at least in part because of immigration enforcement policies. Drawing on in-depth interviews and self-assessments of psycho-social functioning, I describe the phenomenon of secondary immigration enforcement and how it operates. In addition to the omnipresent concern of deportation, secondary immigration enforcement operates through three additional variables–familial dysfunction, extreme poverty, and educational aspirations–each of which may lead to family separation.