Who are unaccompanied minors?
In recent years, we've seen a large surge of minors coming alone to the United States. Many of these children are caught crossing the border illegally and taken into custody by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). In the past, the vast majority of these students have been high-school aged boys, however recent years have seen a surge in younger children and females coming as well.
Where are they coming from?
Currently, most of these youths are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Why are they coming to the US?
The countries that these children are coming from are torn by violence, war, poverty and corruption. Homicide and violence rates have dramatically risen in the "Northern Triangle" of Central America in the past few years. The Northern Triangle is comprised of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Many of these students have been victimized by organized crime (gangs or cartels)- many have lost their homes, family members, family businesses. They have no hope left in their homes, and many children are threatened with death if they refuse to join the gangs or cartels. Others have been removed from their home countries by force and have been trafficked illegally into the United States. All of these kids simply want a good education and a better life.This is an excellent video to explain a little more:
What happens once they get here?
By law, minors coming from countries that do not border the US are required to be handed over to the HHS (Health and Human Services). HHS is required to house these students, feed them, provide medical care until they can be handed over to the custody of a sponsor- usually a family member- until they can undergo legal immigration proceedings. They are housed in large facilities with many other children. They may spend months there before a family member or acceptable sponsor can be found.
The children are then released into the custody of their sponsor. The sponsor must be able to care for the physical and mental well-being of the child, as well as pass a background check. The sponsor must also agree to ensure the child’s presence at all future immigration proceedings. They also must agree to ensure the minor reports to ICE for removal from the United States if an immigration judge issues a removal order or voluntary departure order.
Where are they going?
These children go to live with the individuals or families who sponsor them. Below is a table from HHS showing how many unaccompanied minors have been released to each state with a sponsor since January 1.
|State||# of UAC|
|District of Columbia|
I hope this serves to clear up any confusion you might have about the process these children undergo. Next time I post, I will discuss some of the special challenges educators might face in integrating these children into the school community, and how to address those challenges.