Noncitizen Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

A guide to juvenile detention reform

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Immigrant Legal Resources Center, Legal Services for Children

June 3, 2014


This report—the seventh in a series focused on juvenile detention reform—boldly goes where few reports have gone before: straight to the intersection of immigration and the American juvenile justice system. Readers will learn how to help ensure the safe and fair treatment of noncitizen youth in detention by adopting policies and procedures that are consistent with the goals of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). 

Launched in 1992, Annie E. Casey Foundation’s JDAI is a multi-year, multi-site effort to reduce reliance on secure detention while creating a more efficient and equitable juvenile justice system.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

What’s the juvenile justice field’s consensus on handling noncitizen youth? There is none

When it comes to immigration, juvenile justice jurisdictions are hardly operating in lock-step. Some sites only report undocumented youth if they are repeat offenders. Other sites—absent of official policies to guide them—operate via a dangerously erratic ad-hoc approach. Others still treat every youth equally, regardless of their immigration status. And a select few systems routinely alert federal authorities of children whose citizenship is in question.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations