E.g., 12/03/2023
E.g., 12/03/2023
Rising Child Migration to the United States

Rising Child Migration to the United States

Eduardo Perez/U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The number of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border first increased notably in 2014, drawing the attention of the U.S. government, media, and public. Here, you can find in one place a collection of relevant MPI resources, from analyses of trends and policy developments surrounding these flows of child migrants to data and country profiles of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and MPI briefings. For data on the number of unaccompanied minors released to sponsors by state and county from 2014 to the present, check out our interactive data tool.

A Path to Meeting the Medical and Mental Health Needs of Unaccompanied Children in U.S. Communities
As the number of unaccompanied children entering U.S. communities has increased, many have faced barriers to accessing critical medical and mental health services. This report explores common barriers to care, promising practices for overcoming them, and strategies for strengthening services. It draws on interviews and focus groups with clinicians, social workers, and others working with this population as well as one-time unaccompanied children themselves.

Four Strategies to Improve Community Services for Unaccompanied Children in the United States
For unaccompanied children leaving federal custody to live with parents or other sponsors, the transition into U.S. communities can be a difficult one. And although a patchwork of services exist to help these children and to address medical, mental health, and other needs, their capacity varies widely by location. This issue brief explores promising practices for improving these critical forms of support.

Relaunching the Central American Minors Program: Opportunities to Enhance Child Safety and Family Reunification
The U.S. government has relaunched the Central American Minors (CAM) Program, which was created to offer certain children living in dangerous conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras a safe, legal way to join their parents in the United States. This report identifies shortcomings in the earlier version of the program, examines the new one, and makes recommendations for how to strengthen it going forward.

Strengthening Services for Unaccompanied Children in U.S. Communities
While record monthly arrivals of unaccompanied minors in early 2021 have drawn considerable attention, important questions surround what happens once the children are released from federal custody to parents or other sponsors. This report examines federal post-release services, support needs among children and sponsors, how service providers are meeting these needs, and ways to improve services—to the benefit of the children and the communities in which they live.

U.S. Government Makes Significant Strides in Receiving Unaccompanied Children but Major Challenges Remain
The federal government has made notable progress since March 2021 in getting unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border out of Border Patrol facilities and into Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, and then releasing them to parents or other sponsors. Yet there are serious concerns about standards of care and conditions in a new type of ORR facility: emergency intake sites, as this commentary explores.

Border Déjà Vu: Biden Confronts Similar Challenges as His Predecessors
The number of unaccompanied child migrants at the U.S. southern border has risen, presenting President Joe Biden with challenges similar to those faced by his predecessors in 2014 and 2019. This article examines the previous episodes and evaluates how Biden is mirroring or deviating from previous presidents' responses.

Hampered by the Pandemic: Unaccompanied Child Arrivals Increase as Earlier Preparedness Shortfalls Limit the Response
The increase in unaccompanied child arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border in February and March 2021 has led to backups and overcrowding at U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities ill-suited to house children, in part due to earlier significant reductions in Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter capacity during 2020. This commentary explores preparedness shortfalls and the options the Biden administration has moving forward.

Spike in Unaccompanied Child Arrivals at U.S.-Mexico Border Proves Enduring Challenge
Approximately 11,500 unaccompanied children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in May 2019, putting the year on track to exceed 2014's surge. As the U.S. government struggles to care for these child migrants, with public outrage mounting over reports of unsafe, filthy conditions in initial Border Patrol custody, the failure of the executive branch and Congress to plan for increased shelter and care demands are increasingly apparent, as this article explores.

Increased Central American Migration to the United States May Prove an Enduring Phenomenon
The complex push and pull factors driving child and family migration from Central America to the United States have changed little since the 2014 crisis. Despite some fluctuation in arrival numbers, recent trends suggest the characteristics of an enduring phenomenon. This article explores the latest developments in U.S. policy responses, including enforcement operations, development assistance, and family detention.

Trends in Unaccompanied Child and Family Migration from Central America
This fact sheet uses U.S. and Mexican apprehensions data to trace the evolving trends in unaccompanied child and family migration from Central America through Mexico and to the United States, and discusses the push factors and pull factors responsible for the increase in flows seen in recent years, as well as the growing role of smuggling organizations.

Top 10 of 2015 – Issue #8: A Shared Challenge: Europe and the United States Confront Significant Flows of Unaccompanied Child Migrants
Child migrants traveling alone to Europe or the United States face similar dangers and are particularly at risk of abuse and trafficking. The arrival of tens of thousands of such children in Europe and the United States have overwhelmed accommodations as well as legal and integration processes, as this article explores. Furthermore, the unprecedented flows have sparked heated public debate in a number of cities.

Stopping the Revolving Door: Reception and Reintegration Services for Central American Deportees
For a growing population of migrants deported from Mexico and the United States to Central America, the conditions upon return typically are worse than when they left, setting up a revolving-door cycle of migration, deportation, and remigration. This report provides a detailed profile of reception and reintegration services offered in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to deported migrants, examining their challenges and opportunities for improvement. 

Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Communities, Immigration Court, and Schools
More than 77,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America were released to communities throughout the United States between October 1, 2013 and August 31, 2015. This issue brief examines where these children have been placed in the United States, how they are faring in the immigration court system, and how schools are adapting to their arrival.

Migrants Deported from the United States and Mexico to the Northern Triangle: A Statistical and Socioeconomic Profile
The United States and Mexico have apprehended nearly 1 million Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran migrants since 2010, deporting more than 800,000 of them, including more than 40,000 children. This report provides a demographic, socioeconomic, and criminal profile of Central American deportees and traces how rising Mexican enforcement is reshaping regional dynamics and perhaps ushering in changes to long-lasting trends in apprehensions.

In-Country Processing in Central America: A Piece of the Puzzle
The U.S. in-country refugee processing program launched in Central America in 2014 as a response to rising unaccompanied child migration may provide a legal, safe alternative to undertaking dangerous, unauthorized journeys to the United States, albeit a limited one. This report examines the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, as well as the track record of prior U.S. in-country processing programs.

Unaccompanied Child Migration to the United States: The Tension between Protection and Prevention
Policymakers, the public, and the media were seemingly caught off-guard in spring 2014 when a surge of child migrants from Central America reached the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet the uptick began in 2011. This report examines the causes of this surge and recommends policy solutions to advance both critical protection and enforcement goals in situations of complex, mixed flows.

Unaccompanied Minors Crisis Has Receded from Headlines But Major Issues Remain
This article in MPI's online journal explores the challenges that remain concerning the fate of tens of thousands of newly arrived children and families now residing in the United States pending immigration court hearings, even as Central American child migrant flows have returned to their precrisis level. Meanwhile, Congress has declined to authorize new funding to address the situation.

The Stalemate over Unaccompanied Minors Holds Far-Reaching Implications for Broader U.S. Immigration Debates
When Congress returns from recess, lawmakers will need to pick up where they left off on approving an emergency spending bill to address unaccompanied migrant children at the border. This article previews these battles in Congress and analyzes how the recent border crisis is changing the broader U.S. immigration debate.

Upfront Hearings a Must to Stem Tide of Border-Crossing Children
In this Dallas Morning News op-ed, MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner outlines a key policy option to help address the child migration crisis and reduce the likelihood that more children will set off on a dangerous journey: full immigration court hearings much earlier in the process.

Dramatic Surge in the Arrival of Unaccompanied Children Has Deep Roots and No Simple Solutions
This article is a primer on the complicated situation involving unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, overwhelmingly from Central America. The article traces the "push" factors that propel the children northward as well as the "pull" factors in the United States—including family reunification and the sometimes unintened consequences of U.S. policy.

What Is the Right Policy Toward Unaccompanied Children at U.S. Borders?
In the absence of a policy plan to address the surge in unaccompanied child arrivals, simplistic explanations and draconian “solutions” are already surfacing. In reality, the problem is enormously complex and there is no single policy approach that is going to bend the curve on unaccompanied child arrivals. In this MPI commentary, Kathleen Newland explores possible ways forward.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children: A Growing Phenomenon with Few Easy Solutions
Destination countries of unaccompanied child migrants struggle with many questions related to why children migrate, how they should be received and processed, and whether they should be protected, integrated, or returned to their home countries. Amanda Levinson of ThirdSpace Consulting provides the context within which unaccompanied child migration occurs, and analyzes the policy response of the United States and European destination countries.

U.S. Immigration Policy and Mexican/Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now
Migration to the United States from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) has accelerated in the last four decades. This increase has been driven by economic opportunities and facilitated by social networks of friends and family already in the United States.

Central American Development: Two Decades of Progress and Challenges for the Future
This report summarizes the economic and social development policy achievements of Central American countries over the past 20 years, as well as the notable obstacles to development that remain. The author identifies long-term challenges and outlines how they can be incorporated into a new development agenda.

Evolving Demographic and Human-Capital Trends in Mexico and Central America and Their Implications for Regional Migration
Over the past half century, migration from Mexico and Central America to the United States has been driven in part by regional demographic and human-capital trends. As the U.S. labor force became better educated, fewer native workers accepted certain low-skilled jobs. This report offers a look at the economic changes that have coincided with a Mexican and Central American population boom.

Thinking Regionally to Compete Globally: Leveraging Migration & Human Capital in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America
This final report from the Regional Migration Study Group outlines the powerful demographic, economic, and social forces reshaping Mexico and Central America and changing longstanding migration dynamics with the United States. It offers a forward-looking, pragmatic agenda for the region, focusing on new collaborative approaches on migration and human-capital development to strengthen regional competitiveness.

Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States
Since 1970, the immigrant populations from Mexico and Central America living in the United States have increased significantly: rising by a factor of 20 even as the total U.S. immigrant population increased four-fold over the period. This demographic report examines the age, educational, and workforce characteristics of these immigrants.

Central American Immigrants in the United States
The number of Central American immigrants in the United States has grown dramatically, amid political corruption, violence, and natural disasters in their native countries. But recent images of Central Americans arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border do not tell the whole story, with more than half the population arriving in 2000 or earlier. This article offers key data on the 3.8 million Central American immigrants in the United States.

El Salvador: Civil War, Natural Disasters, and Gang Violence Drive Migration
El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America yet the most densely populated. A stagnant economy, high levels of crime and violence, and natural disasters have pushed growing numbers of people to migrate without authorization or seek asylum abroad, mostly in the United States. This article explores historical and contemporary emigration from El Salvador.

Guatemalan Migration in Times of Civil War and Post-War Challenges
During recent decades, large-scale international migration has been an external escape valve for Guatemala, a response to the country's multiple internal problems. This article examines Guatemalan migration, primarily to the United States, into the post-war era; U.S. government immigration policies affecting Guatemalans; the impacts of migration within Guatemala; and Guatemala/Mexico migration dynamics.

Honduras: The Perils of Remittance Dependence and Clandestine Migration
Honduras has a population of just over 8 million and an economy primarily driven by exports—propped up in no small way by remittances. This article examines the history of modern Honduran migration, tracing the rise of emigration to the United States as a dominant economic force, and exploring migration trends, policies, and impacts on Honduran society.

Supporting Unaccompanied Children in the U.S. Communities Where They Live
Featuring findings from an MPI report, speakers examined the process of releasing unaccompanied children to sponsors, the current structure of federal post-release services, and the most significant needs these children and their U.S. sponsors experience. The discussion also explored efforts by philanthropic, state, and local actors to address the needs of this population and their communities, what service gaps exist, and key recommendations to improve access to services.

How Are School Systems Responding to the Needs of Immigrants, Refugees, and Unaccompanied Minors?
Marking the release of an MPI report, this webinar focuses on how schools have created and expanded systems around the identification of newcomer students’ immediate and ongoing academic and socioemotional needs, and how they designed programs and curricular pathways to balance these needs with state policy constraints.

Unaccompanied Child Migrants in the United States: How Are They Faring?
This webinar examines data on where unaccompanied child migrants are being placed in the United States, how they are faring in immigration courts, what services are available to them, and how U.S. communities are adapting to their arrival.

Regional Enforcement: A Profile of Migrants Deported from the United States and Mexico to the Northern Triangle
Marking the release of an MPI report, speakers on this webinar present an overview of regional immigration enforcement trends, including U.S. and Mexican apprehensions and deportations of both children and adults, along with a demographic, socioeconomic, and criminal profile of child and adult deportees.

Child and Family Migration to the United States: Continuing Flows and Evolving Responses
In this webinar, MPI experts examine the shifting pattern of Central American migration between 2011 and 2014 and expectations for 2015, why inflows in this period present a particularly acute policy challenge, and how states, localities, the U.S. government, and other countries in the region are responding to the crisis. 

Unaccompanied Minors: A Crisis with Deep Roots and No Simple Solutions
During this telebriefing, MPI experts discuss the factors behind the flow of unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico to the United States, the relevant U.S. policies governing their treatment, and possible solutions to address this rising flow.

Children on the Run: An Analysis of First-Hand Accounts from Children Fleeing Central America
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres leads a discussion at MPI of the state of citizen security in Central America and the resulting humanitarian impact, featuring findings from Children on the Run, a UNHCR report based on interviews with more than 400 unaccompanied children.

A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System
At this MPI event, panelists from the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at UC Hastings and Kids in Need of Defense discuss their findings regarding how unaccompanied children are processed through the U.S. immigration system, along with recommendations for improvements in the process to ensure the protection of these minors.

Unaccompanied Minors and Their Journey through the U.S. Immigration System
This panel discussion, featuring experts from both KIND and the Women’s Refugee Commission, focuses on the causes of the increase in unaccompanied minor migrants, the situation these minors face once detained or apprehended, and the challenges confronting both nongovernmental organizations trying to provide aid and the U.S. government agencies responsible for processing minors through the system.