by AnnaMarie Bena, Esq.
Most Americans learned about unaccompanied immigrant children during the summer of 2018 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border. Once separated from their parents, these children met the definition of “unaccompanied alien children” (UAC) under section 462(g) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Homeland Security Act, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, and the Flores settlement agreement then provided the legal framework for the required care and services for the children. That framework has stood for over ten years, with the key element—the Flores settlement agreement—guiding every decision of the federal government about UAC since it was agreed to in 1997.
In 2019, the program is shifting. The number of children coming to the United States has increased significantly. As of August 2019, approximately 67,100 UAC were referred by DHS to the care of HHS. Additionally, DHS and HHS drafted final regulations implementing the Flores settlement agreement, and the district court promptly issued an injunction, leaving the settlement agreement in place and future guidance for the program in question.
USCRI, with its experience providing shelter care, home studies, post-release services and legal services for UAC, makes the following recommendations with the intent of surrounding and strengthening unaccompanied immigrant children with quality care and services that are in their best interests.
Click here to read the full report USCRI-Best-Interest-Oct2019.