Conference: Protecting Unaccompanied Immigrant Children
Date and Time
Friday, June 13, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, AB
San Diego, CA 92110
The Trans-Border Institute will host a conference in order to place the current wave of unaccompanied immigrant children into broader contexts, and to develop humane and effective alternatives. We hope to present a mix of first-hand experience from practitioners in different regions, data and analysis from researchers, and strategic perspectives from policy makers. We’ll begin by exploring the framing of children as threats, and the larger social, political, and cultural forces this framing has concealed. In the specific context of children fleeing violence in contemporary Mexico and Central America, this will entail making an honest assessment of the long-term legacies of armed conflict in the region, and the ways in which the war on drugs and intensified immigration enforcement have exacerbated them. We’ll then move on to the specific risks that unaccompanied immigrant children are facing right now, and how we might better screen and protect them from abusive homes, traffickers, and other exploitative situations.
The number of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States has surged from a long-term average of 5,000 per year to a projected 60,000 for 2014. The vast majority are from Mexico and Central America. A significant proportion of these children are fleeing violence in their home countries; many have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents; and most are exploited and abused on their way to the United States. The conditions in their home countries, the perils of transit, and their vulnerability in the United States are well-documented. And yet, very few unaccompanied immigrant children apply for asylum or other forms of protection under U.S. immigration law. Most are scared, uninformed, and under extreme pressure to get out of holding cells and detention centers as quickly as possible, even if it means relinquishing rights they never knew they had in the first place. Those that do apply for relief have very limited access to counsel or appropriate social services; and the burden of proof and other legal standards are seldom adjusted to account for the fact that they are children.