Thompson, Amy, Rebecca Maria Torres, Kate Swanson, Sarah A. Blue, Óscar Misael Hernández Hernández. “Re-conceptualising agency in migrant children from Central America and Mexico.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45:2 (2017) :235-252.

It is a fact that children migrate from their countries of origin to the United States unaccompanied—their age, however, places yet another barrier to overcome.

In the United States there is the idea that children may not inherently have agency, which is defined in this article as “an individual’s intrinsic capacity for intentional behavior developed within the individual’s environment(s) and subject to environmental influences” (Thompson). This effectively labels young migrant bodies within a dichotomy of being either a victim or a criminal—if the young body is victim enough, then they are granted aid and allowed to achieve their goal.

However, childhood, agency, and migration have an interrelation much more complicated than the dichotomy can hold. With the assistance of 32 interviews from Mexican and Central American unaccompanied migrant youth, this article argues for children’s agency. It allows for their complex interrelations be and their experiences legitimized rather than suppressed or denied.

The authors of this article use an approach that explores how young unaccompanied migrant bodies express agency through motivation and assert it as so, but also how their agency is suppressed or fostered by state and non-state factors. For example, there is the argument that children act upon plans as given to them by an adult (parroting)—an argument that denies a child’s agency and places it upon the person who made the plan. In this article we see how a child’s agency is present even with a pre-panned route—the plan is followed, but the execution contains the child’s intention, and strategic decision making.

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