How You Can Support Unaccompanied Migrant Children

March 19, 2021Elizabeth Leff

Like so many across the United States, we are committed to ensuring a compassionate and just national response to the growing numbers of unaccompanied minors entering the United States along the southwest border. The weaknesses in our immigration policy that have evolved over the past decades, and the attacks on the immigration and asylum systems over the past several years have led in great part to this tremendously painful moment.

Why is there an increase in immigrants and asylum seekers arriving at the border?

A few things are contributing to increased immigration through the southern border, among them:  a backlog of asylum seekers who were previously expelled to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols; the violence, decimated economies, and devastation of hurricanes Iota and Eta in Central American countries; and ongoing migration from around the world often leads people to enter the U.S. through the southern border.

What are Title 42 expulsions and how are they affecting migrants?

In regular times, individuals claiming asylum are allowed to make their claim and wait within the U.S. as their case is decided. But during the pandemic, the Trump administration invoked a rule known as Title 42, expelling migrants under the guise of public health.

Title 42 expulsions are disproportionately affecting Black migrants from African and Caribbean countries, another example of how anti-Black racism underlies much of U.S. immigration policy. The Biden administration has unfortunately continued Title 42 expulsions for adults and families.

Where do unaccompanied minors fit into this?

The Biden administration is accepting unaccompanied children under age 18. The children are first held by the Border Patrol and are supposed to be transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

The large numbers of children mean that goal is not always met. It is vital that the administration process these children quickly and compassionately to ensure they are safely reunited with family members in the United States. The government has said that more than 80% of arriving children have family in the U.S., often a parent.

How you can take action:

The Reform Movement’s priority remains ensuring that all migrants can claim asylum and ensuring that migrant children are properly cared for, are not held for long periods of time in detention, and are reunited with family members in the United States when possible. We will continue to update this section as additional action opportunities arise.

  • Apply for a Kraus Immigration Justice Mini-Grant with your congregation: These URJ mini-grants support congregations’ essential work to support young (under 25 years of age) immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. If you have a project proposal that you would like funding to support, we encourage you to apply. Applications are open through Friday, April 9. Learn more and apply now.
       
  • Watch an interfaith webinar about unaccompanied minors at the border: On Wednesday, March 24, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition hosted “A Faithful Response to the Border: Welcoming Migrant Children and Asylum Seekers.” Watch the recording online.
      

  • Support our work: Donate to support the RAC’s immigration justice work and amplify the strength of the immigration justice mini-grants.
       
  • Urge Congress to reform the immigration system: A sweeping legislative fix to our broken immigration system has taken on new urgency. Call on Congress to enact just, compassionate, and equitable immigration, asylum, and refugee policy. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.
     
  • Make in-kind donations to support asylum seekers: The San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Family Shelter provides vital humanitarian services and transportation assistance to families seeking asylum in the United States. All items purchased from their wish list will be used to support these processes. View and purchase items from the wish list.
     
  • Donate to the Catholic Charities Respite Center: URJ Temple Emanuel in McAllen, TX is collecting donations to support the work of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley’s Respite Center. Run by Sr. Norma Pimentel, a speaker at the 2019 Consultation on Conscience and named by TIME magazine as one of 2020’s most influential people, the Respite Center provides vital support to newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers. Donate now.
     
  • Donate to Casa Alitas: URJ Congregation M'Kor Hayim in Tucson, AZ is collecting donations for their shelter called Casa Alitas, meaning House of Wings, to provide clothing, backpacks, water, meals and other needed items to migrants. Donate now.
       
  • Look for additional action opportunities: When doing this work, we take the lead from partner organizations whose expertise is focused on asylum and immigrant children and families. We encourage you to look at the advocacy and volunteer opportunities at the following organizations:

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