Migration Policy Institute
A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System
Elizabeth Dallam, National Legal Services Director, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND)
Lisa Frydman, Associate Director and Managing Attorney, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UC Hastings College of the Law
Karen Musalo, Director, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, UC Hastings College of the Law
Wendy Young, President, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND)
Kathleen Newland, Director, Refugee Protection and Migrants, Migration, and Development Programs, MPI
Children have been fleeing alone to the United States in record numbers, which have risen dramatically from fewer than 7,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to as many as 74,000 in FY2014. In their report, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) find that the U.S. immigration system is failing children who come to the United States in search of safety, stability, and protection. The report, A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System, finds that children face a system created for adults that is not required to consider the child’s best interests. Despite the potentially enormous impact of the proceedings on their lives and futures, unaccompanied children are not provided lawyers to help them navigate the complex requirements of immigration proceedings.
A Treacherous Journey urges that the United States should treat these minors as children first and foremost, and create a more child-friendly system that will help ensure that migrant children in the United States—as well as those who are returned to their home countries unaccompanied—are protected. This would include providing unaccompanied children with legal counsel and child advocacy services in immigration proceedings, devising child-sensitive procedures and legal standards, and applying the “best interests of the child” standard in all decisions that affect them. The report calls for creating a new form of permanent immigration status for those children who are ineligible for other forms of relief but who should not be repatriated according to the “best interests” standard. The report includes detailed recommendations for these and many of the other reforms it champions.