July 7, 2021
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) appreciates the opportunity to share its experience and recommendations related to the rights of and alternative care for unaccompanied children as part of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s 2021 Day of General Discussion.
In recent months, unprecedented numbers of unaccompanied children have sought protection at the United States-Mexico border, with more than 16,000 unaccompanied children in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in early June 2021. Many of these children were forced to renew their search for protection after having been expelled by the U.S. under an unlawful border expulsion policy known as “Title 42” for the public health code on which it was purportedly based. Back-to-back hurricanes in Central America in November 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded the dangers facing unaccompanied children–deepening instability in the region and leaving children with no choice but to seek safety in the U.S. In February 2021, following a change in presidential administration, the U.S. exempted unaccompanied children from the expulsion policy and has since begun to restore reception of unaccompanied children consistent with U.S. law providing protections for them.
U.S. efforts to care for and reunify thousands of unaccompanied children throughout this period shed light on both the particular needs of this vulnerable population and the significant work that remains to ensure the provision of high-quality alternative care.