As the conversation in Washington about comprehensive immigration reform continues, I want to draw your attention today to one of the many migrant populations LIRS serves – children.
LIRS works to find loving homes for unaccompanied refugee children who have been separated from their families or orphaned. LIRS also cares for unaccompanied migrant children who cross our borders alone to ensure their best interests and safety while they undergo immigration proceedings. As badly broken as our immigration system is for migrant and refugee adults and families, it can be even more heartbreaking for children who come to the United States by themselves.
Last year, we told you that the number of children crossing the border into the United States was at an all-time high. This number continues to skyrocket, in large part due to dangers children are fleeing in Central America, according to our partners at the Women’s Refugee Commission:
Despite the horrific conditions that some of the children underwent in making the journey to the United States, the majority stated they would still make the trip, even with the knowledge of how difficult the journey was. As one child explained, “If you stay you will die, if you leave, you might…either way it’s better to try.”
At a time of fiscal austerity, I’m deeply concerned that the resources available will not keep pace with this surge of incoming children to provide for their care in the least restrictive, community-based settings possible. However, I’m hopeful that the national debate around immigration reform provides an opportunity for renewed attention to this very vulnerable population as well as all young newcomers.
LIRS has joined with over 200 national, state, and local organizations to champion protections for children in comprehensive immigration reform. Our immigration system must be reformed to ensure that children remain with their families when it is in their best interest to do so, that they are safe from the dangers of abuse and human trafficking, and that all are able to live up to their full potential. We also look forward to supporting the re-introduction of legislation such as the HELP Separated Children Act, the Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and the DREAM Act to ensure that our lawmakers take every step to invest in promising young people who will become future leaders of the United States.
I invite you to join us – subscribe to our Stand for Welcome campaign and further your knowledge of this issue by exploring LIRS resources about our work with and advocacy for children. Please stand ready for urgent updates and opportunities to take action to stand for migrant children!