The Secure the Border Act Would End Protection of Unaccompanied Children

September 29, 2023

As Congress considers Fiscal Year 2024 spending measures, it must uphold vital protections for unaccompanied children and reject the inclusion, in part or whole, of the Secure the Border Act of 2023 (H.R. 2/S. 2824). This Act would end the U.S. protection system for unaccompanied children as we know it, decimating bipartisan safeguards for this uniquely vulnerable population and compelling children’s return to human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and extreme violence.  

“The Act would effectively return many unaccompanied children seeking safety in the United States into the hands of human traffickers and other bad actors who are intent on their exploitation,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Those few children who make it beyond wholly inadequate screenings at the border would be treated cruelly within the United States and in violation of child welfare standards. Regardless of the merit of their claims for U.S. protection, due to lack of a fair process to present their cases, they would overwhelmingly face return to the very harms they fled. The Act poses a true threat to the lives of refugee and immigrant children hoping to find safe haven in this country.” 

As this two-pager highlights, the Act would, among other things: 

  • Deprive vulnerable children of attorneys who constitute their only hope for due process and ability to obtain protection from trafficking and other dangers; 
  • Replace the legal process currently available to most unaccompanied children at the border with a cursory screening that would all but guarantee children’s summary return to human traffickers and other bad actors; 
  • Subject many unaccompanied children to Customs and Border Protection detention for up to 30 days—ten times longer than permitted under current law—in jail-like conditions in facilities that are already overwhelmed; and 
  • Alter Special Immigrant Juvenile Status criteria so as to risk the return of abused children directly into the hands of the parents who abused them. 

KIND urges Members of Congress to reject this legislation’s inclusion — in part or whole — in any funding deal and to fully uphold vital protections for unaccompanied children.  

Read KIND’s analysis of the bill here.