KIND envisions a future in which unaccompanied children receive the protections they deserve. Currently, that is far from reality.
Across the globe, a record number of children are displaced and forced to migrate due to war, poverty, gang violence, disease, climate change, and political upheaval. In 2021, over 36 million children were forcibly displaced from their homes. More than half of the world’s 26 million registered refugees are children. Some of these children migrate alone, without a parent or guardian. In 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended over 150,000 unaccompanied children at or near the United States’ border, a near tenfold increase from the 16,067 apprehensions in 2011.
Laws and policies governing the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking safety in the United States are inflexible, outdated, and do not adequately protect these vulnerable children. When unaccompanied children arrive to the United States, they confront an adversarial, punitive immigration system that does not consider their best interests, age, traumatic experiences, or language barriers—all without the guarantee of legal representation. Many children are returned to their countries of origin with no support system to help them reintegrate safely. Children who are permitted to remain in the United States often do not have the resources or capacity to navigate the challenges of building a new life in a new country.