Keeping Kids Safe: KIND’s New Campaign to Transform the Immigration System for Unaccompanied Children

January 5, 2024

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is excited to share its new campaign, Keeping Kids Safe: A Seamless Safety Net for Children on the Move. Keeping Kids Safe is a ten-year initiative designed to transform outdated laws, shift conversations about child immigration to center child protection, and reform the way the current U.S. immigration system—and subsequently protection systems across the globe— treats children. Through engaging policymakers and the public, Keeping Kids Safe seeks to systemically reform the child immigration system to focus on child protection and well-being. 

Currently, unaccompanied children encounter a legal system designed for adults; one of the goals of the campaign is to make the child immigration system more child centered. The first principle of the campaign is that unaccompanied children are children first. Read the seven principles of the campaign here 

To guide the campaign and ensure wide reach to diverse audiences, KIND has created a Leadership Council of experts across different fields including law, education, health, gender-based violence prevention, and government, as well as immigration. The Leadership Council helps KIND spread our message and advocate for the changes that unaccompanied children deserve and plays a crucial role in the Keeping Kids Safe campaign by advising KIND on children-first, pragmatic policy solutions and recommendations. These experts and visionary leaders will also help KIND build broad support for transforming the child protection landscape for unaccompanied children through public engagement and outreach to policy makers.  

One of the first policy initiatives of the campaign is to promote administrative and legislative changes to the treatment of children when they interact with the government, including locating child welfare professionals at the border and making immigration processes more child friendly, especially for children in immigration court. Leadership Council members are passionate about the importance of a court process designed for children’s needs and helped to build momentum for bipartisan legislation doing just that. 

On November 1, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) alongside U.S. Representatives Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and Maria Salazar (R-Fla.) introduced The Immigration Court Efficiency and Children’s Court Act of 2023. U.S. Representatives Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.), and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) also joined as original cosponsors of this legislation. The bill would establish a Children’s Court focused on the adjudication of unaccompanied children’s removal proceedings within the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). A children’s court would make immigration court more child-friendly while also relieving strain on the immigration court system, which currently has a backlog of over two million cases.  

Promoting child-friendly reforms within the current system is the first step in building support for a re-imagined system that places the emphasis on promoting the safety and well-being of children, regardless of their immigration status.  

Ashley Helsing, Director of the Keeping Kids Safe Campaign, stated, “We are thrilled to bring this campaign to policy makers and the public as a call to action to protect children seeking safety. As laid out in the campaign principles, children are children first and we look forward to working with a wide range of partners to make this a central component of immigration policies affecting children.” 

Stay tuned for campaign updates and a blog series featuring the Keeping Kids Safe Leadership Council.