The Exclusion of Central American Minors (UMC) Under the Refugee Regime in the United States
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The current definition of a refugee used by the United States grants asylum to those who are fleeing persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership to a particular social group, or political opinion. This narrow definition does not take into consideration new factors forcing Central American unaccompanied children (UMC) to seek asylum in the U.S. This paper argues that youth migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras would qualify for asylum if the parameters of asylum in the United States were expanded to include gang violence and the lack of state protection. Adopting Alexander Betts’ definition of survival migrant--those people leaving a fragile state--would pose a solution to the large influx of unaccompanied minors who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border between 2014-2016. This paper uses 27 interviews of Central American UMC interviewed in the summer of 2015 while they were detained by Mexican immigration officers in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Additionally, the paper draws on personal observations from my travels in El Salvador and Guatemala. This paper uses these methodologies to identify the factors influencing the migration of UMC, as well as analyzing how these young migrants how they are excluded from the refugee regime and how they might argue for asylum in the U.S. The paper found that UMC would be likely to receive asylum or refugee status if the U.S. were to expand its definition of asylum to include survival migration factors.