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Where We Stand: A 20-Year Retrospective on the Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the United States

By USCRI April 24, 2023

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) and The Children’s Village present Where We Stand: A 20-Year Retrospective of the Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the United States.

Read the full report here.

Prequel

The retrospective will review the Unaccompanied Children’s Program from the passage of the Homeland Security Act (HSA) of 2002 until today. It assesses 20 years of legislation, policies, litigation, and, most importantly, the U.S. federal government’s care of unaccompanied migrating children, with a view toward the next steps and improvements for the years ahead.

The research and writing of this report took place for 18 months and was conducted by Policy Analyst Jenny Rodriguez.

Chapter 1: The Transfer, a 20-Year Retrospective of the Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the U.S.

This first installment looks at the years immediately following the passage of the Homeland Security Act. It covers three main areas: the basics, including demographics of the children and agency budgets; the law and policies in place to care for the children; and the agency transition, featuring interviews with government staff who were there during the transfer, specifically inside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, as it took over care for the children from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Chapter 2: The Flores Saga, a 20-Year Retrospective of the Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the U.S.

The second chapter looks at the Flores settlement agreement and features interviews with government staff and Flores counsel. In this chapter, we will not give a complete history of Flores but rather highlight actions that were most critical to the Unaccompanied Children’s Program. It covers three main areas: background on Flores v. Garland, the Flores enforcement action of 2004, and the current state of Flores.

Chapter 3: Protections for Unaccompanied Children in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA)

The third chapter looks at the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). In this chapter, we will analyze critical provisions that govern the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children who enter the United States. It covers three main areas: background on how the TVPRA came to be, the key provisions included for unaccompanied children, and legal protections provided for in the TVPRA of 2008.

Chapter 4 Part 1: Home Studies and Post–Release Services for Unaccompanied Children

The fourth chapter looks at services offered to unaccompanied children. Part one will cover home studies and post-release services.

Chapter 4 Part 2: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

The fourth chapter looks at services offered to unaccompanied children. Part two will cover Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, one of the legal immigration statuses available for unaccompanied children.

Chapter 5: Haiti Earthquake

The fifth chapter examines the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the processing of Haitian children as unaccompanied children.

Chapter 6: Influx of Central American Unaccompanied Children

The sixth chapter looks at the influx of Central American children that started in 2012 and reached a crisis point in 2014.

Chapter 7: Prevention of Sexual Abuse

The seventh chapter looks at policies put in place to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse and sexual harassment involving unaccompanied children.

Chapter 8: Recommendations

The eighth chapter provides recommendations on how to improve the Unaccompanied Children’s Program based on the direct care we provide for children through shelters, home studies and post-release services, trafficking assistance, legal representation, and repatriation in El Salvador and Honduras.

The Children of Tomorrow

This chapter presents notes from unaccompanied children sharing their dreams and aspirations for their futures.

Additional Resources:

Executive Summary

This executive summary reviews the Unaccompanied Children’s Program from the passage of the Homeland Security Act (HSA) of 2002 until today. It assesses 20 years of legislation, policies, litigation, and, most importantly, the U.S. federal government’s care of unaccompanied migrating children, with a view toward the next steps and improvements for the years ahead.

Facebook Live: A 20-Year Retrospective of the Unaccompanied Children’s Program

USCRI Senior Vice President AnnaMarie Bena and Policy Analyst Jenny Rodriguez, who is leading the project, sat down with Jeremy Kohomban, President and CEO of the Children’s Village, on Thursday, January 13, 2021, to talk about the first installment of the 20-year retrospective on unaccompanied children that will be released at the end of January 2022. The report will look at the period after the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the transfer of the program from INS to ORR and take a closer look at the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and how ORR implemented it.

Webinar: Former Unaccompanied Children and Their Stories of Resilience

Moderated by USCRI Senior Vice President AnnaMarie Bena and Policy Analyst Jenny Rodriguez, the panel featured three distinguished former unaccompanied children, Ana Tello Duran, Gerson Navidad and Alejandra Valdez, who shared their inspiring stories of resilience.

A Conversation with Ana Tello-Duran: Her Journey from being an Unaccompanied Child to now serving Unaccompanied Children

Policy Analyst Jenny Rodriguez interviewed Ana Tello-Duran as part of USCRI’s and The Children’s Village’s “Where We Stand: A 20-Year Retrospective of the Unaccompanied Children’s Program in the United States.” Ana left Mexico in 2011 as an unaccompanied child with her older sister in search of a better life. After gaining asylum, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Social Work. Ana worked in the social work field for more than four years, serving various communities in Virginia. Ana lives in Illinois, where she is currently a Family Support Specialist with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). In this conversation, we discuss her journey from being a former unaccompanied child to now serving unaccompanied children.

Legal Services for Unaccompanied Children Panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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