Washington, DC—As President Biden prepares to present the State of the Union this evening, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is offering its assessment of his Administration’s progress in protecting unaccompanied children. While the Biden Administration adopted a range of laudable reforms that strengthened the safety of unaccompanied children over the last two years, it simultaneously delayed or overlooked other necessary changes that left children at risk of harm. In its new report, At a Crossroads: A Midterm Assessment of the Biden Administration’s Protection of Unaccompanied Children, KIND urges the Administration to prioritize the protection of unaccompanied children in the coming years and implement robust policy shifts that fully honor and advance the safeguarding of these children.
“The Biden Administration has made important strides in reinstituting protections for unaccompanied children that were dismantled under the prior Administration,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “However, crucial gaps remain that threaten these advances and endanger the lives of children seeking safety in the United States. The Administration can close these gaps in numerous ways and ensure the orderly, humane, and fair treatment of children alone.”
The Administration’s at times contradictory approach to safeguarding unaccompanied children has been a theme throughout the last two years. While championing a plan to achieve legal representation of all unaccompanied children by Fiscal Year (FY) 2027, the Administration continues to rely on “influx care facilities” to shelter many of these children, for example. It has reunified hundreds of families separated under the prior Administration’s cruel “Zero Tolerance” policy yet continues to carry out unnecessary and traumatic separations of migrant families at the border. It exempted unaccompanied children from the harmful Title 42 border policy yet often blocks those same children from accessing protection at ports of entry on their own. It has relaunched and expanded the Central American Minors (CAM) program to provide children with a safe alternative pathway to protection, yet in the first year that new applicants were able to apply, no child’s case was successfully processed.
KIND’s new report offers recommendations to the Administration on how best to safeguard unaccompanied children throughout their journey, while noting ways that Congress should assist.
“Opportunities for the Administration to profoundly change the United States’ approach to the treatment of these children abound,” Young added. “We are hopeful that the Administration will take advantage of these chances and create a strong safety net for these children.”
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