Stolen Innocence: How the United States Robbed Migrant Minors of Their Childhood
Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Illinois

Primary Discipline

Migrant youth in recent years have faced educational deprivation, labor exploitation, dangerous human smuggling, detention, and family separation. Stolen Innocence: How the United States Robbed Migrant Minors of their Childhood reveals that these rights violations are part of a long history. This book project draws from neglected archival records scattered across the U.S. and Mexico and oral histories to show how, throughout the twentieth-century, U.S. officials used law, policy, and the concept of “alienage” to deprive migrant minors of the rights of childhood through multiple forms of educational deprivation. It contends that legal systems that monitored migrant youth judged them for their conformity to the ideal of childhood innocence. But even as minors and their advocates resisted rights deprivations and benefitted from the discourse of youthful innocence, it was weaponized against them and their parents to criminalize them both. Law enforcement did this, in large part, by blaming migrant parents for the harms and educational losses endured by their “innocent” children when subjected to migration or exploitation. Stolen Innocence also traces how well-meaning advocates’ reliance on the politics of childhood innocence harmed some young migrants. When children’s advocates got the 1965 Migrant Education Program institutionalized in federal law, its data collection tools made migrant students and parents detectable by law enforcement. Stolen Innocence, therefore, warns of the unintended consequences of marshaling the ideal of childhood innocence to design “pro-migrant” policies, including educational ones.
About Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
Padilla-Rodríguez, Ivón
Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois Chicago and a socio-legal historian of child migration. She is currently working on a book project, which is based on her quadruple prize-winning doctoral dissertation, that historicizes child-centered mechanisms and consequences of U.S. immigration exclusion, including the multiple forms of educational deprivation faced by migrant children. Outside of academia, her writing and research have appeared in The Washington Post, Time, Teen Vogue, and NACLA. She has also authored policy briefs on the migration of children and women for the federal government and non-profits in the U.S. and Mexico. Her previous research experiences inform her work as a co-coordinator of the Newberry Library's Seminar in Borderlands and Latino/a Studies and a member of the Migration Scholar Collaborative. Dr. Padilla-Rodríguez earned her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University.

Pin It on Pinterest