Washington, DC—As President Biden prepares to visit El Paso on Sunday, KIND urges the Administration to end its reliance on border restrictions and deterrence and to truly create a humane, fair, and orderly process at the border for those seeking protection in the United States, including children.
“History and recent experience have shown that limiting access to the border is not an effective strategy to address the increasing numbers of those seeking safety and only causes great harm to children and families,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The Administration can take action now to facilitate safe and orderly processing at the border that would promote protection of the most vulnerable.”
KIND urges the Administration to:
Open ports of entry to those seeking protection. Unaccompanied children can seek protection between ports of entry – areas that are more remote and where criminal actors thrive – but cannot spontaneously present themselves at ports of entry. It is crucial, both for child safety, but also for compliance with the law, that ports are accessible to children in danger.
Hire child welfare professionals to administer screenings and care of children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. Congress has authorized funding several years in a row for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to hire child welfare professionals at the border, but DHS has yet to take action. Posting these officials will add needed capacity for Port staff and will ensure children are processed in the most efficient and appropriate way possible.
Co-locate specialists from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in CBP border facilities. Children are separated from nonparent caregivers at the border under current practice. The Administration can avoid these separations by starting the family reunification process with ORR while children are in CBP custody. This would create efficiencies by reducing children’s length of stay in government facilities.
Formalize binational cooperation between Mexico and the United States to promote family unity for unaccompanied children in government custody. For some migrant children in Mexican custody, their best interests are served by reuniting them with family in the United States while they seek protection. Through the newly-formed U.S.-Mexico working group on migrant children, the governments should create formal agreements on processes to promote family reunification and protection for children across borders.
For more information, please see Ensuring Humane and Orderly Processing of Unaccompanied Children at the U.S.-Mexico Border – KIND (supportkind.org)
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990