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Child Migrants



As a result of instability and violence in other countries, especially Mexico and Central America, children have been traveling to the United States in increasing numbers, some with parents or guardians and some on their own. Sent here by desperate parents hoping to protect their children from certain sexual and domestic violence, these unaccompanied minors are often traumatized by their journey to the United States and struggle with mental and physical health issues while remaining vulnerable to violence. On top of this, they face a series of legal and procedural hurdles to seeking justice and protection in the immigration system, including through extremely rapid hearings and adjudication of their cases in a “rocket docket,” sometimes before they have had a chance to speak with a lawyer or counselor. This can result in their removal from this country and deportation back to certain assault, rape, or even death.


In 2014, Tahirih Houston launched a groundbreaking program to offer specialized, holistic legal and social services to unaccompanied children in search of legal protection in the United States. Through the Children’s Border Project, we identify gaps in services and needs of child migrants to inform our policy work to improve the laws and procedures aimed at protecting this especially vulnerable class. We have engaged in impact litigation and participated in local and national advocacy on behalf of child migrants, all with an eye to improving children’s access to justice.


Children arriving in the United States to seek protection and safety must be treated humanely and with a deep understanding of the trauma they have endured, the special vulnerabilities they face in the United States, and the high level of care needed to provide them with adequate legal and mental health services. Children should never be treated like criminals, held in detention centers or jails simply for asking for protection, whether they are on their own or with their mothers when they are apprehended by immigration enforcers. The lasting impact of these systemic traumas on children can be debilitating and ruinous, scarring young lives throughout their adulthood, and it is our obligation to ensure that we break the cycle of violence by offering a fair and humane process through which children can seek the legal protections to which they may be entitled.
Read our latest updates on child migrants