A New Way Forward: What Congress Must Do to Protect the Dignity, Health, and Safety of Children in Immigration Custody

Title of report is displayed below an artistic representation of a child separated from a loved one

“Modernizing the immigration system’s care and treatment of children, to reflect child welfare principles, is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass. “Children are some of the most vulnerable among us, and we must fulfill our moral and legal obligations to protect their health and safety. The state-sponsored abuse of children that occurred under the previous administration must never be repeated and these recommendations provide a roadmap to achieve this goal.”

Over the past year, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump Administration intensified its four year-long attack on immigrant children. Immigrant children have been summarily expelled from the United States, detained in Customs and Border Protection custody for prolonged periods of time, kept in unmonitored and unlicensed motels, and subjected to heightened COVID-19 risk during their time in government custody. The Trump Administration’s actions inflicted new harms on children as well as exacerbated longstanding problems with the immigration detention system.

Given the change in administration and the momentum around reforming our broken immigration system, now is the time to legislate a comprehensive framework of legal protections for these children.

With longstanding experience as Flores counsel, deep expertise in the domestic child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and a profound commitment to advancing justice for children, the National Center for Youth Law has published “A New Way Forward: What Congress Must Do to Protect the Dignity, Health, and Safety of Children in Immigration Custody.” The briefing describes how federal policy changes over the past year have impacted immigrant children and provides detailed recommendations regarding how Congress can legislate a comprehensive set of protections for children in federal immigration custody, including recommendations regarding the length of time children spend in custody, where children should be placed, what due process protections should be afforded to children, what services children should receive, and the oversight necessary to ensure that children’s rights are protected.