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Posted: March 28th, 2020

Are delinquency cases higher among immigrant children?

Are delinquency cases higher among immigrant children?

Delinquency is a term that refers to the involvement of minors in illegal or antisocial activities. Delinquency can have serious consequences for both the individual and the society, such as school dropout, substance abuse, violence, and criminal behavior. However, not all delinquent acts are considered crimes for immigration purposes. Depending on the nature and severity of the offense, the immigration status of the child, and the type of court proceeding, a delinquent act may or may not trigger grounds of inadmissibility or deportability.

Immigrant children are a diverse group that includes those who were born abroad and came to the United States with their parents or relatives, those who were brought to the United States by smugglers or traffickers, and those who arrived in the United States unaccompanied by an adult. Immigrant children may face various challenges and risks in their new environment, such as poverty, discrimination, language barriers, cultural differences, family separation, trauma, and exploitation. These factors may increase their vulnerability to delinquency or victimization.

However, there is no conclusive evidence that immigrant children are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than native-born children. In fact, some studies have suggested that immigrant children have lower rates of delinquency than their peers, especially in the first generation. This phenomenon has been attributed to the protective effects of family cohesion, cultural values, social networks, and aspirations for upward mobility. However, these protective factors may weaken over time and across generations, as immigrant children face acculturation stress, discrimination, and marginalization.

Therefore, it is important to consider the individual and contextual factors that may influence the involvement of immigrant children in delinquency, rather than making generalizations based on their immigration status. Moreover, it is essential to provide appropriate interventions and services for immigrant children who are involved in delinquency or at risk of becoming involved, such as legal representation, education, counseling, mentoring, and community support. These interventions can help prevent further delinquency and promote positive outcomes for immigrant children and their families.


– ILRC (2020). What are the immigration consequences of delinquency? Retrieved from
– ILRC (2018). Immigration consequences of juvenile delinquency. Retrieved from
– ABA (2017). A guide for state court judges and lawyers on special immigrant juvenile status. Retrieved from
– Sampson RJ & Laub JH (2005). A life-course view of the development of crime. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 602(1): 12-45.
– Portes A & Rumbaut RG (2001). Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
– Suarez-Orozco C & Suarez-Orozco M (2001). Children of immigration. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.


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