Psychological practice with unaccompanied immigrant minors: Clinical and legal considerations.

Among youth who migrate to the United States from Latin America, unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs)–traveling without a parent or caregiver–are a unique subpopulation facing substantial challenges before, during, and after migration. UIMs often migrate as a result of traumatic experiences in their home countries but are also vulnerable to experiencing trauma pre- and postmigration. These experiences are compounded by the impact of prolonged separation from caregivers who migrated earlier (premigration) and caregivers who were left behind (postmigration). Once in the United States, UIMs are typically considered undocumented and often do not have the legal representation necessary to successfully navigate immigration proceedings in a system designed for adults. Further, they often live in areas with increased rates of poverty and community violence and can face stigmatization and exclusion from important protective activities. UIMs are therefore at risk for psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress. This article provides an overview of typical experiences for UIMs, discusses the accompanying legal and clinical implications, and offers recommendations for psychological practice at the level of providers, training programs, and child-serving systems. For example, providers might incorporate family-based and trauma-focused interventions to enhance resilience and psychological well-being, in addition to support in navigating interactions with the legal system. Clinical training programs can provide education about the experiences of UIMs, while clinicians can advocate at the systems level to promote social integration of UIMs into school systems and a more humane immigration system focused on meeting the needs of these vulnerable children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)