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The Role of the Legal System and the Media in the Dehumanization of Child Migrants at the Border

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In recent years, immigration, especially concerning those individuals immigrating from Central America and Mexico, has become increasingly controversial. Within the last five presidents, policies concerning immigration have shifted. Under President

In recent years, immigration, especially concerning those individuals immigrating from Central America and Mexico, has become increasingly controversial. Within the last five presidents, policies concerning immigration have shifted. Under President Bill Clinton in 1997, the Flores Settlement, an agreement between immigration activist organizations and the government that created standards for detaining accompanied and unaccompanied minors was made. Following 9/11, in 2005, President George W. Bush increased the amount of money spent on immigration enforcement in an effort to deport more immigrants. President Barack Obama increased the number of deportations from President Bush during his first term. However, in 2014, an already imperfect immigration system was disrupted by an influx of child immigrants. As a result, detention centers were at capacity and unable to accommodate the increasing numbers of immigrants. Child migrants were placed in caged-areas, immigration lawyers and courts quickly became overwhelmed with cases, and children were alone and could barely communicate. This thesis explores the various relationships between accompanied and unaccompanied minors from Central America, the American legal system, and the media and broadcast news outlets’ rhetoric concerning child migrants. Focusing on the ways in which immigrant minors are objectified by the legal system and the framing of immigrants in the media, it is evident that their complex interaction allows for the oppression of the child migrants. Since the American legal system and the media influence and respond to each other, the responsibility of the child migrants’ dehumanization is on both the legal system and the rhetoric of the media and broadcast news outlets.

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  • 2021-05