Eight: A relational approach to unaccompanied minor migration, detention and legal protection in Mexico and the US

The chapter considers the state systems of protection for unaccompanied migrant minors in Mexico and the United States. The transits and arrivals of Central American minors – from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – offer important opportunities for scholars to consider the sociolegal practices of migrant care, especially how legally-accepted but institutionally-unfulfilled claims might signify something more than system failures. Instead this chapter takes the law and state institutions as sites for power relations to play out, rather than as outcomes of legislative power struggles or as resources for mutual claims by states and individuals. The aim of the chapter is to analyse the distinctive – and perhaps constitutive – tensions that govern state systems of protection for unaccompanied minors, looking to both legal texts and the empirical realities of state activities in Mexico and the United States.

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