Washington, DC—In testimony today before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) outlines a vision for fundamental reforms to the nation’s immigration system that would ensure the safety and well-being of unaccompanied children as they migrate in search of safety.
KIND’s Vice President for Policy and Advocacy Jennifer Podkul describes how the United States can transform its border and shelter systems for unaccompanied children by establishing a fundamentally humanitarian reception model at the border and pivoting towards family-based care settings and small-scale shelters. These changes would not only serve children’s best interests and uphold U.S. laws and values, they would also yield greater efficiencies and prove more adaptive in the event of future increases in unaccompanied child arrivals.
“The challenges facing unaccompanied children and the government agencies that engage with them are significant,” Podkul said. “But with the proper resolve and policies, the United States can meet those challenges and create a more fair, humane, and efficient system. Proper planning and reimagined reception will ensure that we are not faced with the same challenges every few years. This is a moment of great opportunity. KIND urges the administration and Congress to seize this chance and reform our system for the good of all.”
KIND has identified numerous short- and long-term opportunities to ensure proper treatment of children in government custody that ensures child safety and prompt reunification with sponsors who can care for them throughout their immigration proceedings. These approaches also provide for child protection after their release by ensuring post-release services. Among the key recommendations in Podkul’s testimony:
- Hire child welfare professionals to oversee care of children in Customs and Border Protection custody
- Co-locate Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services professionals in border facilities
- Ensure children’s appropriate care in and prompt and safe release from Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody by hiring more ORR staff; establishing standards and robust oversight and monitoring of emergency intake facilities; expanding ORR’s capacity of licensed placements; and providing post-release services to all children, including legal representation and social services.
- Rescind the Title 42 policy and ensure processing of all unaccompanied children as required by the TVPRA
- Address the root causes of migration and expand pathways to protection in the region.
For more information, please see KIND Blueprint: Concrete Steps to Protect Unaccompanied Children on the Move on the treatment of unaccompanied children and Recommendations for a Root Causes Strategy
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990