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family separation, children, torture, trauma, immigration enforcement, deterrence, Central America, Mexico, United States, Indigenous, Maya, mixed-status, citizenship, foster care


Scholars have identified how immigration deterrence measures that authorize family separations impact minors who enter without authorization. Less attention, however, has been placed on how these measures impact mixed legal status families. Few explore the hurdles of deportees and U.S. citizens - especially those of indigenous descent - who join parents abroad and difficulties they face upon return. This article reveals this gap and provides findings from ethnographic research on the circumstances that led to the family separation and foster care placement of David, an indigenous Maya U.S. citizen minor. We utilize David’s story to illustrate the harm caused by the U.S. government's implementation of the "Zero Tolerance" policy toward migrant families. Specifically, we argue how immigration deterrence policies normalize the systemic neglect of U.S. citizen minors who are placed in foster care, which can create barriers to health and education services, and prolong the trauma of family separation.

Publisher Attribution

This is an accepted manuscript for an article published in Latino Studies, published by Palgrave Macmillan