Recent months have seen a dramatic increase in migration to the United States by unaccompanied minors, spurred by gang violence, crop failure, domestic abuse, and other factors. Charitable legal services programs and community-based organizations are reporting nearly a doubling of the number of apprehensions of migrant children without parents or guardians, notwithstanding the extraordinary perils these children confront in migrating to the United States and in the US-Mexico border region.
On July 24, 2012, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) hosted a dialogue to discuss these issues facing unaccompanied minors. Keynote speaker, Wendy Young, Executive Director of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), discussed the causes of this humanitarian crisis and the challenges it presents for the children, non-governmental organizations, and the different US government agencies that are responsible for the protection and humane treatment of these children. KIND is a non-profit organization founded by the Microsoft Corporation and actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie. It provides legal counsel to unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children in the United States. Karen Grisez, Public Service Counsel for Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and member of the CMS Board of Trustees introduced the speakers. Donald Kerwin, CMS’s Executive Director, moderated the session. Ms. Young’s presentation was followed by short responses from Judge Gabriel Videla, who adjudicates the cases of unaccompanied minors in New York Immigration Court, and Wendy Claudio, who directs an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)-funded program which provides shelter, schooling, health care and legal services for unaccompanied immigrant children at Children’s Village. As with past CMS dialogues, the event included an exchange between the speakers and the audience.
More information on this issue is also available in a recent New York Times article on unaccompanied minors entitled, “Young and Alone, Facing Court and Deportation.”