Thursday, February 28, 2019
Title: Translating Care for Minors Seeking Asylum in the US: Disparate Narratives and Relationalities in Asylum Petition Cases
Abstract: This presentation centers on the concept of “care” in the juridical principle “in the best interest of the child” (BIC), which plays a central role in judicial decisions about child welfare including those applying for asylum or legal residency. In some cases the BIC principle overrides the minor’s desires and expectations, complicating issues of agency and intentionality. To explore how discourses of care are shaped by ideologies of rationality and decision-making, and how care is communicated and agreed upon by different social actors, in this talk I analyze interactions between Spanish-speaking asylum seekers, their lawyers, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers, and their translator (me). The asylum seekers are unaccompanied minors that have entered the US mostly from Central America, and have been sent to northern California while their deportation hearings are processed. Many have experienced some degree of trauma in their home countries and during their journey to the United States. The category of “trauma” is used to erase narrative inconsistencies in the minor’s declaration that both lawyers and USCIS officers use to create a new storyline that complies with asylum petition requirements and theories, as well as “what’s best for the minor.” This paper analyzes when “care” becomes a translation term that unites disparate accounts and intentions.