Unaccompanied minors at the border: What’s happening and how you can help


The need for foster care has greatly increased over the last few years. Please read the attached to learn of ways you can pray and potentially serve children in need.

What is going on right now at the border?

Fleeing violence and extreme poverty in their home countries, large numbers of Central American children and families are seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States—including thousands of children unaccompanied by parents or legal guardians.


The current situation is part of a years-long crisis.

In the past few years, the dismantling of an already broken asylum system made it nearly impossible for children and families to seek asylum at the southern border, regardless of their background or circumstances.

This has led to a backlog of asylum-seekers, many of whom cannot return to their countries because of life-threatening situations and have no choice but to remain in dangerous, makeshift camps along the border, where gangs run rampant and violence is common.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the scope of the problem. In 2020, due to health concerns, the federal government banned all asylum-seekers from entering the country. This policy is still in place, and many adults and families are being turned back at the border. But the current administration, following a 2020 federal court order, has changed the rule for children unaccompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Expelling these children back into Mexico or Central America would put them at severe risk of being abused, trafficked, and exploited. Instead, the U.S. government keeps them in temporary holding cells or shelters until a safe home can be found.

Unfortunately, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has wholly overwhelmed the immigration system, leading to unsafe and overcrowded conditions where they’re being held.

Why are so many people from Central America trying to cross the border and seeking asylum in the United States?

The Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have one of the highest murder rates in the world and high rates of extreme poverty. Many people in these countries live in constant fear of gang violence. To make matters worse, the pandemic has further destabilized this region. As a result, thousands of families—and unaccompanied children—flee the region to seek asylum in another country.

Asylum is a well-established, internationally recognized legal process where someone with a credible fear of returning to their home country can petition the government of another country to seek refuge there. President Biden and his administration have pledged to reform the asylum process, but in the meantime, thousands of people are waiting in unsafe conditions.

It’s hard to comprehend a child fleeing by themselves to a different country out of a desperate hope that they might find safety and refuge. Yet this is the heartbreaking reality.

Read more about the plight of Central American children seeking asylum in the U.S.

What is happening to the unaccompanied minors apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol?

Unaccompanied minors as young as seven years old are being placed in holding facilities until they are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which works to find them a safe sponsor—usually a family member in the United States—until the courts decide their immigration case.

The law clearly states that children cannot be held in a Border Patrol holding cell for more than 72 hours. But because the system is so overwhelmed right now, children are often being held longer. And as holding centers overflow, children are being placed in facilities meant for adults or even moved to temporary influx shelters in places like convention centers.

These circumstances compound the trauma of their journey.

How can I help these children?

The best way to get kids out of holding cells is to move them into safe, temporary homes. Our Transitional Foster Care program provides unaccompanied minors with safe, loving foster homes until they can be reunited with their families. We desperately need more foster families to welcome these vulnerable children. COVID-19 vaccines are now available for children in foster care, their foster families, and their caseworkers to keep everyone safe.

These children have been through traumatic circumstances that no child should ever experience. Can you let unaccompanied children know they are safe and loved? Learn more at our Transitional Foster Care homepage.

We are dramatically expanding our Transitional Foster Care program to meet this urgent humanitarian need.

About the Author: Brad Kramer, content writer, used by permission

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