A Chance for Redemption: Revising the “Persecutor Bar” and “Material Support Bar” in the Case of Child Soldiers
Armed groups in conflicts around the world frequently exploit child soldiers. Despite the unique experience of child soldiers, who are frequently recruited by means of force and deceit, immigration law as it is currently applied may bar former child soldiers from receiving asylum in the United States. In particular, the prevailing agency interpretation of the “persecutor bar” and the “material support bar” equates child soldiers with adults who have committed serious atrocities. This Note argues that the application of these asylum bars to former child soldiers runs against social values and standards of moral culpability in the United States. Child soldiers are perceived as victims in popular culture and international law rather than perpetrators. Drawing upon U.S. criminal law, this Note reasons that the common law principles of infancy and duress favor a reinterpretation of the immigration laws as they apply to child soldiers.