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Padilla-Rodríguez Wins SHCY's Dissertation Prize for 2021

2021 SHCY Dissertation Prize

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez

“Undocumented Youth:
The Labor, Education, and Rights of Migrant Children in Twentieth Century America”
(Columbia University, 2021)


"Undocumented Youth" is a highly engaging, well-written, and deeply researched work which weaves together the entangled histories of migration, childhood, education, labor, incarceration, and racism in twentieth-century United States. In addition to rigorous methodology and wide-ranging archival research, the dissertation stood out due for its impassioned writing and urgent findings on migrant children. Padilla-Rodriguez made a valuable, original, and timely contribution to the history of children and youth.  

The Committee also recognized excellence in Anisa Puri's "Youth Migration to Postwar Australia (1946-1973): A Social, Cultural, and Oral History," (Monash University, PhD. Diss., 2021); and in Yukako Otori's "Disposable Subjects: Law and Child Migration to the United States, 1890s-1920s," (Harvard University, PhD. Diss., 2022).

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in History at the University of Illinois Chicago. She is a socio-legal historian of child migration and a scholar-activist. The daughter of formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants, her research in and outside of the academy is rooted in her longstanding commitments to immigrant communities.

She is currently working on a book manuscript that historicizes child-centered mechanisms and consequences of U.S. immigration exclusion. Her work uncovers the origins of undocumented youth labor trafficking, the “school-to-deportation” pipeline, and migrant child detention in the twentieth century. It argues that contests over the rights of child migrants racialized border-crossing Latinx youth and hardened the distinctions between the citizen and the migrant. It also reveals how paternalistic ideas about childhood innocence get weaponized to extend the carceral state’s reach, ensnaring migrants of all ages into its expanding dragnet.