According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, “each year, thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) risk harrowing journeys and travel alone to seek refuge in the United States. These children come from all over the world for many reasons, including to escape persecution in their home countries, to reunify with family members and to look for a better life.” The number of unaccompanied child migrants entering the United States – or unaccompanied alien children (UAC), the term the federal government uses – has been on the increase in recent years, even as overall undocumented immigration has fallen. The majority of unaccompanied children, who arrive without a parent or guardian, are coming from three Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied child migrants increased from less than 10,000 in 2008 to almost 25,000 in 2012. And, in a 2012 report, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) revealed that the number of apprehended children referred to ORR for detention increased to around 10,000 in 2012.

Immigration reform should address the situations of unaccompanied children. Indeed, legislation that senators already have approved, according to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), include policy changes to positively affect unaccompanied children: “Provisions in the Senate bill, S. 744, include appointed counsel for unaccompanied children as necessary, and for children returning alone to their home country, support for their safe and sustainable return and reintegration so they do not have to make the life-threatening journey to the U.S. again. Giving the Attorney General the authority to appoint counsel will ensure that unaccompanied children, many of whom are fleeing persecution, conflict, severe abuse, abandonment, or deep deprivation, can make their case for U.S. protection before an immigration judge. Without counsel, they can be returned to their home countries, where their well-being, or even their lives, may be in danger.”

How should immigration reform address unaccompanied child migrants in the United States?

Does the Senate immigration bill do enough to better the situation for unaccompanied children?

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