Under the current Administration, unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the United States are being turned away at the Northern and Southern borders. These expulsions not only leave children with no choice but to return to the dangerous situations from which they originally fled, but they also limit the number of children who find refuge in the United States. Consequently, border expulsions significantly hinder the unification of unaccompanied minors with their sponsors.
Currently, New York is the third largest state to release the highest number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) to sponsors. However, the number of UAC released to sponsors in the fiscal year 2020 starkly differs from the number of UAC released in the fiscal year 2019. In 2019, 6,367 UAC were released to sponsors in New York; in 2020, only 1,493 UAC were released to sponsors in New York.
The dramatic decrease in the number of UAC released to sponsors from 2019 to 2020 can reasonably be attributed to the Administration’s current border expulsion practices; the lower the number of UAC who enter the United States, the lower the number of UAC who are released to their sponsors.
President Trump’s administration is no stranger to family separation. In 2018, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents. These separations were likely a consequence of the President’s “zero tolerance” policy, where “unauthorized immigrant parents traveling with their children were being criminally prosecuted and separated from their children.”
Separation – whether between families or between unaccompanied minors and their sponsors – is a profoundly traumatizing experience. Children suffer immensely, both physically and mentally, from this unjust phenomenon.
So long as the Administration’s border expulsions continue, unaccompanied minors will continue to suffer. The number of UAC entering the United States will likely continue to report at an alarmingly low rate, and the number of UAC released to New York State sponsors will likely continue to dwindle. Consequently, without the protections of the law, their sponsors, or their families, unaccompanied minors will remain in perilous, often life-threatening, situations.
The Federal Government must stop expelling unaccompanied minors at the borders. We must work together to protect all of our children by providing refuge and assisting with unifications whenever possible. Immigrant children seeking safe haven in the United States need us the most right now and we must respond.