International Day of Families: Reuniting Immigrant and Refugee Children

May 15, 2023

In our work representing unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children seeking safety, KIND has seen thousands of children reunite with parents and other family members who they often have not seen in many years. In a number of cases, a child may not even remember a parent who was forced to leave the family to find work to help them survive. In others, we see the indescribable joy of parents and children coming together again after forced separation by the U.S. government.   

Witnessing these families rebuild their relationships after many challenges is always a reminder of how precious family can be for those fortunate to have them. International Day of Families (el día internacional de familias) on May 15, recognized by the United Nations since 1993, is an opportunity to also reflect on the precariousness of this bond and how, if we are not vigilant, policies can lead to dire and often unintended consequences for immigrant and refugee families.

It was happiness.

An unaccompanied child KIND represented who fled gangs in Honduras at age 11 describing seeing her mother for the first time in six years.

While family unity is often a result of KIND’s work, we also work to prevent family separation in its many forms.  

While the Zero Tolerance policy of the previous Administration is thankfully behind us, children seeking safety in the United States are often taken from their nonparental caregivers at the U.S.-Mexico border. U.S. policy does not immediately recognize grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other family members who may have been the child’s primary guardian in their home country but do not have legal paperwork to prove the relationship. Being taken from these family members – who can be like a parent to a child and on whom the child is solely dependent – is devastating. KIND supports the Biden Administration’s Trusted Adult Relative Program to quickly process and reunite separated nonparental families.

The Biden Administration’s new asylum ban – implemented on May 11 as the restrictive Title 42 border policy ended – could also lead to new family separations. The new policy, Circumvention of Lawful Pathways, places a near-ban on asylum eligibility for children, families, and others seeking U.S. protection under the guise of creating safe pathways for legal migration. The proposed rule is inconsistent with U.S. and international refugee law, will put children at greater risk of harm, and likely lead to more family separations. Families unable to apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of the ban and forced to remain in dangerous conditions in Mexico may send their child to the border in a desperate attempt to give their child a chance at safety. KIND is monitoring the impact of this new policy and will do all it can to ensure the protection of these children.

On this International Day of the Family, KIND reiterates our commitment to the protection unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children and their reunification with family whenever possible and when in the best interest of the child. Join KIND in urging the Biden administration and Congress to ensure the orderly and humane reception of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Sign a petition urging Congress to Support Funding to Reunite Separated Families here. 

It felt like … the beginning of a new life.

A girl from Central America forcibly separated from her mother, who KIND helped reunite, after seeing her mother for the first time in more than four years.