In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Campaign for Youth Justice is supporting a series on the impact of federal and state youth justice policies and practices and their disparate impact on Latinx families.
Our first blog is written by Dr. Francisco A. Villarruel, Ph.D. at Michigan State University and CFYJ Board member.
For over two decades, advocates, community based practitioners, families, and researchers have challenged the Department of Justice to consider modifying data on the number of Latinx youth that spend part of their adolescence with juvenile justice systems. While some might consider this an inconsequential and unimportant issue, the failure to better understand the diversity of Latinx youth has serious implications. One assumption, for example, is that immigrant youth (those born outside of the U.S. or those that come early in their lives) are more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system. Yet, there is no reliable way to substantiate or refute this claim. Research shows that immigrant adults are less likely to violate public laws – why do we assume this would be any different for children? Do we know whether generational status impacts involvement with juvenile justice systems? Evidence suggests yes, but most of the work to date has focused on only those that have recently immigrated with those that have not.