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Photo of Padilla-Rodríguez, Ivón

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez, PhD

Assistant Professor

History (US, immigration, law, childhood)


Building & Room:

1007 UH


601 S Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607


Office Hours - And by appointment
Tuesday 02:00pm – 03:00pm
Thursday 02:00pm – 03:00pm


Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez 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 project that historicizes child-centered mechanisms and consequences of U.S. immigration exclusion. Her manuscript draws on neglected archival records scattered across the U.S. and Mexico to show how officials used law, policy, and the concept of “alienage” to distort migrant Mexican and Central American youth’s access to the rights associated with “modern” childhood. In uncovering the origins of undocumented youth labor trafficking, the "school-to-deportation" pipeline, and migrant child detention in the twentieth century, her research shows how law and “alienage” nullified migrant minors’ access not just to the rights of childhood—but to childhood itself. And that even when migrant youth did benefit from the discourse on childhood innocence, it was weaponized against them and their parents to criminalize them both. Beyond simply describing the possibilities enabled by childhood innocence, the book will urgently warn of its perils.

The dissertation Dr. Padilla-Rodríguez's book project is based on was awarded four dissertation prizes: the Bancroft Dissertation Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, the Best Dissertation Prize from the Society for the History of Children and Youth, and the Cromwell Dissertation Prize from the American Society for Legal History.

Outside of the academy, her writing and research have appeared in The Washington Post, Time, Teen Vogue, and NACLA. She has also authored policy briefs on the migration of children and women for the federal government and non-profits in the U.S. and Mexico. Her previous research experiences inform her work as a member of the Migration Scholar Collaborative and a co-coordinator of the Newberry Library's Seminar in Borderlands and Latino/a Studies.

Dr. Padilla-Rodríguez earned her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, where her research was supported by the Ford Foundation, Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, American Historical Association, American Society for Legal History, and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, among others.

Selected Publications

Peer-Reviewed Articles

’Los Hijos Son La Riqueza Del Pobre:’ Mexican Child Migration and the Making of Domestic (Im)migrant Exclusion, 1937-1960” Journal of American Ethnic History 42, no. 1.

  • Winner of the Society for the History of Children and Youth’s 2022 Fass-Sandin Article Prize (in English)

“’A Violation of the Most Elementary Human Rights of Children:’ The Rise of Migrant Youth Detention and Family Separation in the American West” in Ed. Brenden Rensink, The North American West in the Twenty-First Century (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, November 2022).

Child Migrants in Twentieth-Century America” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History (New York: Oxford University Press), December 2020.


Public Scholarship

U.S. Policies Like Title 42 Make Migrants More Vulnerable to Smugglers,” Washington Post, January 2023.

The Origins of an Early School-to-Deportation Pipeline,” NACLA, November 2020.

The U.S. Separated Families Decades Ago, Too. With 545 Migrant Children Missing Their Parents, That Moment Holds a Key Lesson,” Time, November 2020.

The extraordinary scene unfolding in Portland has a disturbing history. How immigration enforcement and policing became entwined,” The Washington Post, July 2020.

The Supreme Court may have just made violence against immigrant children more likely. By deciding the Border Patrol agent who shot a teen could not be sued, the court is perpetuating a long history of violence against immigrant children,“ The Washington Post, February 2020.

Beyond Zero-Tolerance: How Rights Violations Follow Migrant Children Past the Border,” L.A. Review of Books, September 2018.

How I Went from Homelessness to Being an Ivy League Student,” Teen Vogue, January 2017.

Emma Sepúlveda and Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez, Eds., The Country I Call Home: Stories of Growing Up a Citizen in Every Way But One (Reno: Latino Research Center Press, 2015).

  • Second Place, “Best Political/Current Affairs Book,” International Latino Books Awards