The lived experiences of adolescents seeking asylum in the United States with an intersectionality theoretical framework

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Chanel Shahnami Rodriguez (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kelly Wester

Abstract: The number of asylum seekers fleeing their home countries continues to rise globally, including individuals seeking asylum in the United States. Seeking asylum in the U.S. tends to have different consequences depending on the political climate. And to make matters more complex, we knew very little about asylum seekers, as they continually get blended with refugees in samples explored in research. In the asylum-seeking literature, the term asylum seeker and refugee are used interchangeably leaving a gap of knowledge about their distinct experiences that separate them from using refugees synonymously. The process of forced migration that asylum seekers undertake is a journey marked at first by extreme loss, which may include the loss of home, country, culture, family, language, friends, social support, shared cultural, and plans for the future (Di Tomasso, 2010; Tribe & Keefe, 2007). In addition, postmigration factors accounted for equal or greater variance in symptomatology than of premigration and transit stressors on mental health (Jannesari, Hatch, Prina, & Oram, 2020; Khawaja, White, Schweitzer, Greenslade, 2008; Miller & Rasmussen, 2010). The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of adolescents seeking asylum in the United States. This knowledge of post-migration experiences, identities, and roles helped in providing more knowledge to intersectional strategies in counseling, counselors increasing their cultural competence in working with asylum seeking adolescents and their families, and more ways to advocate for clients. Describing the asylum process for asylum seeking adolescents in the United States contributes to cultural humility for counselors, serves as a first step towards policy changes at the local and national levels, and shows the importance of intersectionality approaches in the counseling field. Capturing how adolescent asylum seekers describe and make meaning of their migration and post-migration experiences in the United States was key to providing more knowledge in effective counseling and advocacy opportunities. Intersectionality Theoretical Framework was used to boundary the lived experiences of asylum-seeking adolescents in the United States and the adolescents’ perception of self since seeking asylum. This study explored the experiences of the asylum process for adolescents in the United States using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The following research questions were addressed in this study: (a) What are the post-migration experiences of adolescents between the age of 13 - 16 seeking asylum in the United States? (b) What are the shifts, if any, in perception of self since seeking asylum? Through semi-structured interviews, the experiences of asylum-seeking adolescents were explored, and five superordinate themes emerged from data analysis, along with one a priori developed superordinate theme for a total number of six superordinate themes across all five interviews: (1) pre-migration trauma, (2) transit migration, (3) mandated detention, (4) family dynamics, (5) identities, and (6) resilience, hope, and relief. Three of the six themes included subordinate themes: mandated detention emergent subordinate themes), family dynamics (2 subordinate emergent themes), and identities (5 emergent subordinate themes). The themes described the lived experiences of adolescents going through the asylum process in the United States provided more efficacy and intersectional approaches in counseling these youth and their families. Implications for counselors, limitations, and future research are discussed based on results.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Adolescents, Advocacy, Asylum seekers, Counseling, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), Multiculturalism
Teenage refugees $z United States
Forced migration $z United States
Asylum, Right of $z United States

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