Family Separation and Central American Youth Migration
Ernesto Castañeda
Daniel Jenks
Paperback or Ebook
6.00 x9.00 in.
202 pages
May, 2024

“Timely, meticulously researched and argued, Reunited deftly weaves the voices of Central American youth migrants into cutting-edge scholarly arguments to produce a compelling account that is inspiring, humane, and powerful. Essential reading for scholars, students, policymakers, and anyone interested in understanding the so-called root causes of Central American migration.”
—CECILIA MENJÍVAR, Dorothy L. Meier Chair in Social Equities and professor of sociology, University of California, Los Angeles

Reunited captures the full complexity of contemporary Central American migration to the United States, explaining both the structural and historical forces propelling it and the ways in which families are surviving in their midst. This important book humanizes one of the most politically and morally challenging issues of our time.”
—LEAH C. SCHMALZBAUER, Karen and Brian Conway ‘80, P’18 Presidential Teaching Professor of American Studies and Sociology, Amherst College

Reunited is an essential account of the nefarious effects of inhumane U.S. immigration policy that separates Central American children from their immigrant parents. Ernesto Castañeda and Daniel Jenks offer a nuanced and compelling portrayal of the enduring toll of these separations on child well-being and family ties, as well as the challenges and emotional labor involved in ‘picking up the pieces’ once children migrate to the United States to reunite with their parents, while also suggesting reforms that would aid their integration in U.S. society.”
—CHIARA GALLI, assistant professor, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, an increasing number of children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala began arriving without parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. In many cases, the parents had left for the United States years earlier to earn money that they could send back home. Ernesto Castañeda and Daniel Jenks recount these young migrants’ journey from Central America to the U.S. border, detailing the youths’ difficulties passing through Mexico, proving to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials that they have a legitimate fear of returning or are victims of trafficking, and staying in shelters while their sponsorship, placement, and departure are arranged. The authors also describe the tensions the youth face when they reunite with family members they may view as strangers. Despite their biological, emotional, and financial bonds to these relatives, the youth must learn how to relate to new authority figures and decide whether or how to follow their rules. Offering a complex exploration of youth migration and family reunification, Reunited provides a moving account of how young Central American migrants make the journey north and ultimately reintegrate with their families in the United States.

Ernesto Castañeda is director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and the Immigration Lab at American University.

Daniel Jenks works in policy research in Washington, D.C., and as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Sociology at American University.


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