Lost in Doctrine: Particular Social Group, Child Soldiers and the Failure of US Asylum Law to Protect Exploited Children




Florida State University Law Review



Exploited and persecuted, child soldiers live lives dominated by violence, fear, and death. Very few will find security within their own nations or abroad. Subjected to exclusionary bars or rigid interpretations of the particular social group ground for asylum, U.S. asylum law frequently functions to exclude those lucky few children who are able to escape their persecutors. Scholars writing on child soldiers and asylum law focus, almost exclusively, on the exclusionary bars and question of whether children are persecutors or victims of atrocities. These concerns are critical because how courts view child soldiers determines whether they will grant or deny asylum or withholding of deportation, however, child soldiers face further challenges to gaining admission to the U.S. This Note argues that courts must recognize children as targets of persecution by groups that systematically exploit them as child soldiers. Recognizing children as belonging to contextually-defined, particular social groups for the purposes of past persecution opens the door to grants of humanitarian asylum thereby providing another avenue of protection for children who have suffered life-altering persecution and exploitation.

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