Left Behind: The Impact of Parental Migration on Salvadoran and Mexican Children

Isabel Cristina Duarte Vasquez


According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are over 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States. Many of them are parents of children who were left behind in their country of origin. Jordan and Graham (2011) state that most researchers have been focusing on the adults/parent(s) well being rather than on the children left behind. Therefore, I ask how do children of families who seek work in another country, adjust to life growing up without a parent(s)? What are the obstacles and/or challenges left behind children face while in the care of a family member? How do they overcome those obstacles/challenges? This paper argues that children of transnational families are easy prey for exploitation, recruitment into criminal activity (including gangs, and/or cartels) because their parents are not present to guide, protect, and educate them. The argument is supported with evidence collected through interviews with adults who were left behind as children in Mexico and El Salvador. The goal of this study is to show what adults endured as left behind children and continue to endure even now. And if as adults they continue to struggle then they are not productive global citizens.


Migration; Children; Left Behind

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