Washington – Today, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) released a new report that analyzes the Biden Administration’s progress in its first year on priorities that are fundamental to the protection of unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children. The report, The First Year of the Biden Administration’s Policies on Unaccompanied Children, found that while the Administration had made good on some of its promises to reform the U.S. immigration and asylum systems to ensure that they are “fair, safe, and orderly” and more humane, it maintained some of the egregious policies of the previous Administration, including the continued closure of the border to most asylum seekers. KIND evaluated the Administration’s actions against KIND’s November 2020 recommendations that outline the safeguards and policies the U.S. government should implement to help unaccompanied children overcome daunting obstacles to seek safety in the United States.
“KIND appreciates the progress the Biden Administration has made to reinstate vital safeguards for unaccompanied children that were decimated by the previous Administration, and we look forward to championing efforts that fulfill our remaining priorities, such as ending the border closure, reunifying families, preventing the kind of devastating family separation policies that the past Administration undertook from ever happening again, and providing counsel to all unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The Administration has a historic opportunity to reimagine how the U.S. immigration system can better protect children and KIND stands ready to support a new, child-centered vision that prioritizes child welfare and safety and addresses today’s realities.”
The report describes the positive steps the Administration has taken, including issuing a strategy to address the root causes of migration from Central America, exempting children arriving between ports of entry from Title 42, rolling back restrictive interpretations of U.S. asylum law, and creating the Family Reunification Task Force.
However, Title 42 remains in place, blocking all adults and families seeking protection from accessing the United States, as well as children who arrive alone at ports of entry. The Administration expanded the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), continues to hold children in large unlicensed emergency intake sites, and has yet to make the policy reforms necessary to ensure that family separations like those that happened during the Trump Administration never happen again.
KIND’s recommendations for the Biden Administration in 2022 include:
- Provide legal counsel for all unaccompanied children in immigration proceedings.
- Reopen ports of entry to all unaccompanied children and migrants seeking humanitarian relief and end the use of Title 42 and MPP.
- Deploy child welfare professionals to lead in processing children seeking protection at the border.
- Formalize a policy to prohibit the separation of families except in extreme cases where it is necessary to protect children.
- Take urgent steps to end the use of Emergency Intake Sites and shelter children in small, licensed facilities or homelike settings for the shortest time possible until they can be united with sponsors.
- Implement strategies to address the root causes of migration and provide safe, legal pathways for children in need of protection.
- Expand services for unaccompanied children after the resolution of their immigration cases to help put them on a path to stability and hope for their future.
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