“They Were Going to Kill Me”: Resilience in Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

Rachel Becker Herbst*, Raha Forooz Sabet, Amelia Swanson, Lauren G. Suarez, Denise S. Marques, Edward J. Ameen, Etiony Aldarondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant minors (UUIM) have become the focus of increased attention. Unfortunately, public discourse is often decontextualized, simplistic, and polarized. Empirical literature fails to capture the experiences of UUIM and identify strategies to promote their well-being. In this article we begin to address these gaps through qualitative inquiry. We analyzed written narratives of 292 Latino UUIM using a theoretical thematic analysis. Participants described motives for, and experiences of, the migration process. Guided by Ungar et al.’s (2007) conceptualization of resilience, five subthemes emerged: access to material resources, relationships, identity and cohesion, social justice, and perilous journey. The results from our study highlight (a) the youth’s difficult and often traumatic experiences in their homeland, (b) the factors that made migrating to the United States appealing to them, and (c) the dangerous journey they experienced. Implications for practice, research, and advocacy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-268
Number of pages28
JournalCounseling Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Latino
  • resilience
  • unaccompanied immigrant minors
  • undocumented immigrants
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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