June 7, 2023
Kids in Need of Defense’s (KIND) Keeping Kids Safe campaign seeks to transform the systems for protecting child migrants. Too many of the world’s children are at risk. War, poverty, disease, climate change, political upheaval, and corruption around the globe can place children in the crosshairs of danger. By the end of 2021, over 36 million children under the age of eighteen were counted as forcibly displaced from their homes; more than half of the world’s registered refugees are children. Only a small number of those children seek the help of the United States; nonetheless, the number of children under 18 who migrate to the United States on their own has increased from 16,067 apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2011 to 152,057 apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2022.
U.S. laws and policies governing the treatment of migrant children are inflexible, outdated, and unable to adequately protect these most vulnerable of migrants. Children are forced to go alone through a rigid, adversarial immigration system designed largely with adults in mind that does not prioritize their best interests or consider their limited capacity to navigate complex procedures absent appropriate child-centered support. When denied immigration status, many children are returned to their countries of origin with no effort made to help them reintegrate safely. Even for those children who are permitted to remain in the United States, there are few resources and little capacity to assist them as they navigate the challenges of life in a new country.
It’s time to turn the page. The United States has pledged to resume its leadership in the protection of human rights; we can begin by re-imagining the process for protecting unaccompanied children. We need to build a child immigration system that recognizes the unique needs of children rather than unrealistically demanding that they navigate laws and regulations that they cannot understand.
The following principles are at the heart of the Keeping Kids Safe campaign: