Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education


International & Multicultural Education EdD

First Advisor

Mohammad Popal

Second Advisor

Bill Hing

Third Advisor

Patricia Mitchell


The focus of this study is on a unique immigrant population — unaccompanied minors who have migrated to the U.S. from Latin America, particularly Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The purpose of this qualitative research study is to explore, describe, and understand the migration stories of unaccompanied minors who have migrated to the U.S. from Latin America. Using Lee’s (1966) “Theory of Migration,” this study aimed to uncover the push and pull factors that are motivating youth migration to the U.S. from Latin America, including the social pressures, economic factors, lack of educational and economic opportunities, life-threatening violence, safety concerns, and human rights violations. This qualitative research study offers an analysis of the major themes that arise from semi-structured interviews with eight unaccompanied minors. The study also discusses the availability of the special immigration relief categories, asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), as effective options for obtaining Legal Permanent Residence (LPR) status and eventually U.S. citizenship for immigrant children and unaccompanied minors. According to the research findings, the decision of an unaccompanied minor to migrate to the U.S. is typically motivated by three compelling reasons: the dire need to escape the gang and organized crime group violence in their home countries, a lack of educational and economic opportunities, and the desire to reunite with biological parents who were already living in the U.S. Secondly, the journey that unaccompanied minors must take to arrive at the U.S. border is invariably plagued with extreme uncertainty, danger, and a potential for violence by unknown actors. Finally, a combination of quality legal, educational, and social services are vital for the survival and future success of immigrant youth in this country. Several recommendations are made to effectively assist U.S. immigration, legal, and educational systems that work with and serve immigrant child populations. So as to prevent further harm to this vulnerable child population, the researcher highly recommends multicultural competence and anti-racism training and education for practitioners, professionals, attorneys, immigration and state court judges, social workers, and those who work with immigrant children and youth of color.