Washington, DC – Following news that Mexican authorities found 57 unaccompanied children among 67 migrants in a truck traveling north from Guatemala, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) President Wendy Young issued the following statement:
“This devastating news exposes the desperation and dangers faced by unaccompanied children forced to flee their homes in search of safety, as well as the lack of safe pathways for children to seek access to protection in the United States. It is essential that U.S. policies and regional partnerships prioritize child protection and seek to address the circumstances and impossible choices behind these heartbreaking developments. The Administration can act now to protect these children, and it should not hesitate to do so.”
KIND urged the Administration to:
- Restore access to U.S. ports of entry for those seeking protection.Under current policy, 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 U.S. 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 professionals 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.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990