Discussing Unaccompanied Children: An Advocacy Guide

Discussing Unaccompanied Children: An Advocacy Guide

Discussing Unaccompanied Children: An Advocacy Guide U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 3211 4th St. NE Washington, D.C. 20017 Unaccompanied Children: Who Are They? Unaccompanied alien children or UACs are undocumented migrant children under the age of 18 who come to the United States without their parent or guardian. They are defined in law in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-296 462(g), 116 Stat. 2135, 2205 (2002), a UAC is a person who (A) has no lawful status in the US, (B) has not attained 18 years of age, (C) with respect to whom- (i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody. From Where are the Unaccompanied

Children Coming and Why? Overview of International Protection Concerns The majority of children coming are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (there are some Mexican children arriving- but they are treated differently by law) There are no simple answers to why. They come for a variety of reasons but increasingly they are fleeing life threateninghome country: The Push and Pull Factors that caused low levels of child migration before the spike are still present, including the lack of educational and economic opportunity, the negative push of family breakdown in their home countries, or the positive draw of Family Unity with family members living in the United States One Overriding factor has played a decisive and forceful role in the spike: pervasive violence with impunity communitieswhether it be gang-related, local bad actors, transnational criminals or larger problems of citizen insecurity at the governmental level Addressing the Recent Trends in Arriving Unaccompanied Children Number of UACs Arriving is Increasing

From 2004 to 2011, the number of arriving unaccompanied children to the US averaged between 7,000 and 8,000 annually. In FY 2012, the number of unaccompanied children taken into US custody jumped to over 13,000 children. In FY 2013, the number reached over 24,000 and the current projection for FY 2014 is over the earlier estimate of 60,000 children coming to the U.S. UAC Population Arriving is Changing More Girls Younger Children Arriving More Victims of Trauma What Happens to Unaccompanied

Children If/When They Arrive in the US? AT THE BORDER: Unaccompanied Children are normally apprehended near the border by Border Patrol (or at a port of entry by CBP) and taken to CBP and BP facilities TRANFER TO ORR: UACs are transferred within 72 hours from DHS to HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody into shelters and facilities TIME IN ORR SHELTERS: Currently UACs are averaging 14- 30 days in ORR shelters RELEASED TO FAMILY: 90% of UAC children are released to identified family members or caretakers and placed in deportation proceedings to see if they can stay or not

Important Themes to Remember When Speaking About Unaccompanied Children Why UACs Are Migrating o o o Children are fleeing violence in their communities Children are leaving situations of abuse and neglect Children are looking for security and safety Message Framing:

UAC = Children in Need of Protection UAC U.S. Challenge = urgent humanitarian situation UAC Regional Challenge = A foreign policy, regional protection challenge UAC Solution = A reqional, holistic approach by U.S. & all countries in region Rise in UACs = International Protection Issue Rise in UACs = Distinct from CIR; fixing CIR does not fix this issue Rise in Numbers Caused by Rise in Violence Humane care and Protection in US Is Only Part of the Solution: Asylum in Neighboring Latin American Countries, creating safe paths for migration through resettlement, and Safe Repatriation and Reintegration into Home and Transit Countries, may also be viable solutions in the Best Interest of the Child. Long term the region must address root causes of this forced migration. Faith-Based Talking Points about UAC

Protect most vulnerable and welcome the stranger Respect the dignity and humanity of these children- understand the danger and trauma of their migration journey and that this is in large part a forced migration Examine Root Causes in Home, Transit and Destination Countries of why these children are coming and why they are at risk Support families trying to protect their children Resources on Unaccompanied Children Reports UNHCR: Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection, available at http://www.unhcrwashington.org/children/reports USCCB: Mission to Central America: Flight of the Unaccompanied Immigrant Children to the United States available at http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Mission-To-Central-America-FINAL-2.pdf

KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies: A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System, available at http://www.supportkind.org/en/about-us/resources Womens Refugee Commission: Forced From Home, The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America, available at http://womensrefugeecommission.org/programs/migrant-rights/unaccompanied-children Vera Institute of Justice, Center on Immigration and Justice: The Flow of Unaccompanied Children Through the Immigration System A Resource for Practitioners, Policy Makers, and Researchers available at http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/the-flow-of-unaccompanied-children-throu gh-the-immigration-system.pdf Other Resources Refugee Council USA, Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) , available at http://www.rcusa.org/index.php?page=uac HHS,

Office of Refugee Resettlement, About Unaccompanied Childrens Services, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/programs/ucs/about Questions? If you have further questions, please see the resources list and also contact: USCCB: Ashley Feasley [email protected]; Matt Wilch [email protected] LIRS: Nora Skelly [email protected] June 12, 2014 af mw

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