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Between Compassion and Crackdown: Migrant Children in the United States

February 15, 2018
11:45 - 12:45 PM


Mailman School of Public Health 722 West 168th Street, Room 532B

Event Type: 

Katharine M. Donato

Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration & Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration,
Georgetown University

Thursday, February 15
11:45 - 12:45 PM
Mailman School of Public Health
722 West 168th Street, Room 532B


The summer of 2014 is often remembered as a critical moment when rising numbers of children appeared at the Mexico-US border seeking asylum, but in recent years, other turning points related to child migration have also occurred. In 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was implemented to offer temporary status to migrants who entered with their parents without legal documents. And since 2008, rising deportations have led to growing numbers of US born children without one or both of their parents. These three groups of children fall in-between two polarized worlds related to crackdown or compassion. One views minor migrant children as criminals and dangerous, the other sees them in need of compassion and assistance. In this talk, I present preliminary findings from a new project designed to shift away from polarized narratives and build a middle ground about migrant children. I begin by describing the history of government policies and practices related to child migrant resettlement and illustrate how shifts in policies and practices have helped set the foundation for today’s polarized narratives. I also describe the different groups of child migrants, how the US manages each, and what we know about their social and economic integration. Finally, I propose several child-centered initiatives that may shift the contemporary narratives by integrating both compassion and security.



Katharine M. Donato is the Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration and Director of the Institute for the Study of International Migration in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her work examines many research questions related to migration, including the economic consequences of U.S. immigration policy; health effects of Mexico-U.S. migration; immigrant parent involvement in schools; deportation and its effects for immigrants; the great recession and its consequences for Mexican workers; and globalization and unauthorized migration. Her most recent project examines how environmental stressors affect out-migration from communities in southwestern Bangladesh. In August 2016, her book, Gender and International Migration: From the Slavery Era to the Global Age, received Honorable Mention from the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association (co-authored Donna Gabaccia). She has taught previously at Vanderbilt and Rice Universities.


Videoconference is available at: 
Columbia School of Social Work
1255 Amsterdam Avenue, Room 1109 


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