In this affecting and innovative global history—starting with the European children who fled the perils of World War II and ending with the Central American children who arrive every day at the U.Sthis. southern border—Anita Casavantes Bradford traces the evolution of American policy toward unaccompanied children. At first a series of ad hoc Cold War–era initiatives, such policy grew into a more broadly conceived set of programs that claim universal humanitarian goals. But the cold reality is that decisions about which endangered minors are allowed entry to the United States have always been and continue to be driven primarily by a "geopolitics of compassion" that imagines these children essentially as tools of political statecraft.
Even after the creation of the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program in 1980, the federal government has failed to see migrant children as individual rights-bearing subjects. The claims of these children, especially those who are poor, nonwhite, and non-Christian, continue to be evaluated not in terms of their unique circumstances but rather in terms of broader implications for migratory flows from their homelands. This book urgently demonstrates that U.S. policy must evolve in order to ameliorate the desperate needs of unaccompanied children.