"The Ins Cannot Simply Send Them off into the Night": The Language of Detention in US Court Cases on Migrant Child Detention

  • Anna Thompson


In this paper, I argue that the language used by American court cases
allows for the differential application of rights and treatment of
children in detention. In what become known as the Central
American Refugee Crisis, the US-Mexico border experienced an
increase in the number of unaccompanied children and family groups
between 2011 and 2014. Apprehended children and their families
were placed in detention centers. From an analysis of three court
cases all pertaining to the detention of migrant children, I argue that
the American courts’ language allows for a differential application of
rights and treatment for children in detention by considering a child
as both an “alien” and a “minor,” using the ambiguous principle of
“best interests,” and using a child’s familial status in decisions made
about their detention.
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