College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

International Studies


U.S. immigration law, children, minors, family reunification, IIRAIRA


This thesis seeks to evaluate U.S. immigration law and policy in light of their observable impact on children. My purpose is to review and assess the efficacy of current family reunification law specifically as regards minors: its clarity or ambiguity, consistency in application, and its effects on respect for the rule of law and just consequences. Section one addresses normative dimensions of justice including the legal notion that a punishment meted out should be proportionate to the crime of the perpetrator, the idea of consistency as a necessary though insufficient aspect of justice, and the importance of understanding the complexities of the casually used notion of the “rule of law.” Section two considers the legal and social precedents for special consideration of minors through a historical review comparing the development of immigration law and the concept of “childhood.” Section three details specific failures under immigration law for children with a special focus on the additional grounds of inadmissibility outlined in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibilities Act (IIRAIRA). My goal is to expose the consequences such laws have on minors as well as the ways significant inconsistencies undermine the immigrant, adjudicator, and nation’s respect for the law. My analysis will conclude with recommendations for reform in light of the plenary power doctrine and the notion that minors without legal status may not expect protection under our laws. Perhaps if advocates for reform on either side of the debate began with reform for children, concessions could be made leading to more coherent and comprehensive policies for our nation.