Each year, a number of youth who migrate alone and clandestinely from China to the United States are apprehended, placed in removal proceedings, and designated as unaccompanied minors. These young migrants represent only a fraction of all unaccompanied minors in the US, yet they are in many ways depicted as a preeminent professional and moral cause by immigration advocates.
In and beyond the legal realm, the figure of the "vulnerable Chinese child" powerfully legitimates legal claims and attorneys' efforts. At the same time, the transnational ambitions and obligations of Chinese youth implicitly unsettle this figure. Youths' maneuvers not only belie attorneys' reliance on racialized discourses of childhood and the Chinese family, but they also reveal more broad uncertainties around legal frameworks, institutional practices, health and labor rights—and cause lawyering itself.
Based on three years of fieldwork across the United States, Lawyering an Uncertain Cause is a novel study of the complex and often contradictory rights, responsibilities, and expectations that motivate global youth and the American attorneys who work on their behalf.