North American Leaders Must Prioritize Protection of Migrant Children

January 9, 2023

Washington, DC–As the North American Leaders’ Summit approaches, KIND is urging that the protection of unaccompanied children on the move be a priority. The summit, which brings together the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, is an opportunity to address migration issues and must include a commitment to ensure the safety of children fleeing violence and insecurity and seeking protection in North America.

“Children, particularly children alone, are uniquely vulnerable as they migrate, prey to criminal actors who take advantage of their lack of protection,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The North American Leaders’ Summit is an opportunity to support children on the move and to recognize that the best interests of the child should be at the center of every decision and interaction with migrant children.”

KIND provides legal assistance and social services to unaccompanied and separated children migrating in Mexico and the United States. As KIND advances key principles for protecting the rights of migrant children, we urge the North American leaders to work together towards a regional vision for migration that prioritizes the safety and well-being of children.

The newly-formed U.S.-Mexico working group on migrant children is an opportunity for the governments to come to formal agreements on processes to promote family reunification and protection for children across borders. KIND has outlined a number of policy recommendations for the governments, including:

  • Shift immigration strategy from a deterrence approach to one that prioritizes the protection of children’s rights and best interests throughout their journey, their stay in Mexico, and their arrival in the United States.
  • Initiate consistent, meaningful, and effective dialogue involving both government and civil society actors to discuss binational mechanisms, actions, and policies to address violence against child migrants, smuggling, and human trafficking.
  • Create dedicated policies and mechanisms that prevent family separation and facilitate reunification of separated children with their families.
  • Develop and expand bilateral coordination between Mexican and U.S. officials to ensure safe transfer of unaccompanied children in Mexico to the United States when seeking protection in the United States is in their best interests.
  • Align repatriation policies and procedures with the best interests of the child, ensuring that returns only happen after a best interests determination, and support reintegration services for returning children.
  • Establish specialized legal representation for migrant children to ensure that they know their rights and have access to fair and efficient processes.
  • Guarantee all migrant children access to international protection at and between formal ports of entry.

To learn more about KIND’s recommendations for protecting migrant children, please visit


Media Contact: Megan McKenna,, 202-631-9990