How You Can Help Immigrant Children at the Border Right Now

Coverage of the patently dangerous conditions for children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody has brought renewed attention to an immigration system designed for adults, where children are seen as threats—not as infants, preschoolers, grade-schoolers or teens in need of protection.

Children in CBP custody must receive the kind of food, clothing, housing and medical care that ensures their safety—not care that further jeopardizes their health or even their lives. Conditions at the Clint, Texas border patrol station that held more than 300 children shocked even the most experienced immigration advocates. Despite failing to provide children with basic necessities such as soap, immigration officials have turned away donations of hygienic products, diapers, and toys.

Children’s safety and well-being must be the determining factor in their care. We know so many agree and want to help. We don’t advise donations—CBP isn’t accepting them, and as importantly, CBP has ample resources; the agency is simply failing to spend money to properly care for migrant children. Others have asked about fostering children, but most children want to reunify with their families. They need to be released from detention to their families.

So here are some concrete actions you can take to help.

1.    Learn the facts and tell others about children in CBP custody and the difference between CBP and ORR custody. Unaccompanied children who arrive at our borders are arrested and detained by CBP officials until they can be transferred to more protective custody provided by a different federal agency (Health and Human Services). The Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), provide critical protections for immigrant children. The TVPRA requires CBP to release unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours, while Flores establishes standards for the care of children.

The administration has attacked both the TVPRA and Flores as “loopholes,” when in reality they provide some measure of protection for children. Immigrant children are exercising their lawful right when they seek protection at our border; it is the government that is violating the law when it holds children in CBP stations for more than 72 hours and fails to provide basic necessities for their health and safety. What can you do?

2.    Contact your elected officials: Elected officials who have not yet stepped up to express their outrage and act to end the inhumane treatment of immigrant children need to hear from you. When we visit legislators on the Hill, they say it is much more powerful for someone who lives and votes in their state to call them than it is for a national organization to advocate on voters’ behalf. Calling your representatives works. It was public outrage that led the President to sign the executive order last year reducing the practice of family separation. What can you do?

3.    Volunteer and get involved in your own community.

4.       Donate to the Young Center: Every donation allows us to serve more children, recruit and train more volunteers, provide support to families during this time of tremendous uncertainty and stress, and continue to advocate for an immigration system that treats children as children. The Young Center is the only organization in the United States that provides independent Child Advocates to separated and unaccompanied children in federal custody. What can you do?


Maddie Witters