Washington, DC – As officials from the White House meet with representatives from the Mexican and Guatemalan governments this week to discuss a humane path forward to manage migration, KIND urges leaders from the three countries to commit to regional cooperation to protect children, including by ensuring access to borders and asylum for children who must flee, as well as a commitment to address the root causes of migration.
“Children will continue to come to the U.S.-Mexico border seeking safety unless we focus on the drivers of child migration and implement programming for children that addresses the reasons they flee,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Addressing gang and gender-based violence, strengthening child protection systems, and creating opportunities for children to thrive should be at the center of discussions between the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala.”
At the same time, the United States should work alongside the governments of Mexico, and Central America to strengthen regional protections and ensure that the best interests of children are at the core of policies and procedures wherever children are in their migration journey.
“Children on the move should never be blocked from seeking safety or automatically turned back to their country of origin,” Young added. “Countries in the region must not close their borders to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children.”
Earlier this month, the Biden Administration took a step in the right direction when it restarted the Central American Minors (CAM) Program that allows children to seek protection from the region and to avoid the dangerous journey to the United States. The CAM program, and other refugee protections, must be expanded to reach more children and allow them to reunite with family members. Programs like CAM increase pathways to protection without placing children at risk.
Additionally, the United States should commit to long term development assistance to Central America. The United States should also support Mexico’s efforts to implement legal reforms to ensure protection for children through best-interest determinations and appropriate shelter, rather than detention.
“The protection of child migrants on the move must be at the forefront of discussions on immigration between the United States, Mexico, and Central American countries for meaningful change at the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond,” Young added.
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