Beginning in the fall of 2017, the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights began receiving referrals for unusually high numbers of children separated at the border.
Guided by the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Young Center has developed the only program in the nation that provides independent Child Advocates, whose job it is to advocate for the child’s best interests.
It wasn’t until May 2018 that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "zero tolerance" policy: anyone crossing the border without permission would be prosecuted in criminal court proceedings before beginning immigration proceedings, and their children would be taken away. This was done across the board, with no exceptions.
On May 23, 2018, a Customs and Border Protection official testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agency took 658 children away from their parents' care and custody in just two weeks.
A federal court in California ordered a halt to the administration’s policy of separating every family in June of 2018, and required that families be reunified. Because of our experience in the field, Young Center staff and Child Advocate volunteers at all eight regional offices were appointed to the cases of many separated children.
Many of the children were of “tender age,” under five years old. Our Child and Family Unity Project, launched with the support of individual donors and foundations, allowed us to dedicate four full-time staff attorneys, two social workers and a case support specialist/paralegal dedicated exclusively to parent-child separation cases.
The number of unaccompanied immigrant children in detention has risen to unprecedented heights. As DHS persists in separating children from their parents, our staff continue to be appointed as Child Advocates to newly separated children.
Nearly 15,000 unaccompanied minors were in detention as of December 2018, roughly double the number of children who were in custody just one year prior.
This increase is due to the government’s failure to address the root causes driving migration from Central America and the administration’s concerted plans to deter migration by dramatically ramping up the apprehension and detention of immigrant families.
Many unaccompanied children still face lengthy detention and we are working to ensure that they don’t give up their legal right to request protection and end up being deported.
Additional information is available at the Young Center's website.