(Un-)American Movement: Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and the Rhetoric of Space and Identity

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Royer, Emily K
immigration; citizenship; undocumented immigration; unaccompanied child migrants; children; childhood; rhetoric; rhetorical analysis; discourse; Congress; Congressional discourse; political speech; space; rhetoric of space; identity; Political Science
project description
Immigration, in all its various forms, has become one of the most pressing issues of the modern era. In the contemporary United States, the arrival of migrants—be they refugees, asylum seekers, documented or undocumented immigrants—is often figured as a problem of existential proportions. In this project, I turn my attention to a significant recent development in the new American immigration “crisis.” During the summer months of 2014, the United States witnessed a period of heightened migration by unaccompanied children from the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Through a rhetorical analysis of congressional hearings held in response to these children’s plight, I find that the figure of the child migrant that emerges within these hearings appears to simultaneously contest and entrench dominant modern conceptions of the agency of immigrants. Moreover, my project reveals how the children’s journey of migration reconstitutes both the physical and symbolic space defining the contours of U.S. citizenship and American identity.