How You Can Help Immigrant Children on 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?
Click here to learn about why and how the TVPRA and Flores help protect unaccompanied and separated children.
Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, call into a local radio show to share your concern for migrant children, and share what you’ve learned with your friends in real life and on social media.
Sign up to get action alerts about ongoing legislative developments and other news from the Young Center and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates, information, and responsible news coverage of these issues.
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?
Call your Senators to urge them to support Senator Mazie Hirono’s Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act (S. 661). Both legislations would provide urgent and lifesaving protections and services for some of the most vulnerable immigrant children.
Call your Representative in the House and ask them to convene hearings to hold government officials accountable for their mistreatment of children in CBP, and to demand that CBP officials agree to implement recommendations proposed by the Young Center.
If your Senators and/or Representatives already support the supplemental funding bill, contact them to thank them.
3. Volunteer and get involved in your own community.
Apply to become a Young Center Child Advocate. The Young Center has volunteers in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. Child Advocates meet with an immigrant child in federal custody every week and assist Young Center staff in advocating for that child’s best interests. Learn more about and begin the application process to become a volunteer.
If you are fluent in another language, contact a legal services provider in your area to volunteer. There is a particularly strong need for interpreters in Central America’s indigenous languages.
Find an organization in your city through Immigration Nexus’s directory and contact them to see if they need volunteers.
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?