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Title: A vulnerable threat? : using sensemaking to understand U.S. child migration governance
Author: Bruckmayer, Michaela
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 3372
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis investigates how, why and with what effects actors in U.S. child migration governance understand the causes and consequences of child migration, and how these understandings then help shape policy outcomes during the second Obama administration (2012-2016). 'Actors' include but are not limited to policy-makers, members of immigration authorities, and members of civil society organisations. A child migrant is anyone under the age of 18 who lacks legal status to remain in the United States and is not accompanied by a parent or otherwise legal guardian. Building upon innovative approaches to the study of governance, this thesis contributes to the existing literature on child migration in the United States by presenting a programme of research that allows for the study of actors, their environments, and their understandings, and how these all contribute to shape policy outcomes. This is a departure from previous work that tends to make assumptions about actors' intentions by working back from observed policy outputs. Instead, this thesis attempts to open the 'black box' of governance. This research aims to achieve this by building on the assumptions underlying the 'vulnerable-threat' dilemma proposed by Bhabha (2014), which assumes that competing policy logics where children can be either constructed as vulnerable children in need of protection, or as potentially threatening migrants, have facilitated a contradictory policy environment. This thesis aims to contribute to the existing literature by conducting a thorough examination of the U.S. child migration governance system by developing an interpretivist approach to governance that draws on Pragmatist Interpretivism and the concept of sensemaking and its seven associated properties (Ansell 2016b, Weick 1995). Data and evidence were gathered through the conduct of 33 semi-structured interviews in Washington D.C. and the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, as well as through an extensive document analysis. The analysis yielded the following key findings. First, child migration governance is driven by the construction of the situation by the most influential actors and/or by the parts of the governance system that the most influential actors care about. Second, actors form their understandings based on who they are and on who they work with, not on the issue itself. Third, actors' understandings of the situation are greatly driven by their own ongoing projects, which form the frame of reference for interpreting the situation at hand. In response to the 'vulnerable-threat' dilemma, this thesis finds that, although actors pass judgements and hold certain opinions about child migrants, actors, who they are, and what their environment is like, matters much more for how they understand problems and devise solutions for child migration.
Supervisor: Geddes, Andrew ; Bishop, Matthew L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available