Big Picture


They come from all corners of the world. Unaccompanied and separated immigrant children—also called children on the move—are children who travel to the United States without their parents from all corners of the world: Central America, Mexico, China, India, Romania, and Sierra Leone, just to name a few. They travel alone, via smugglers (coyotes), or under the control of traffickers. The children come for many reasons—they are fleeing political upheaval, extreme poverty, child labor, and abusive homes. Some children are sent to the United States by their families. Some children come hoping and expecting to reunite with family members here. Most are teenagers, but some children are much younger—11 years old, 9 years old, 5 years old or 18 months. Children apprehended at the border or at ports of entry are in almost every case placed in removal proceedings: formal court proceedings in which an immigration judge will decide whether or not the children (who carry the burden of proof) can prove they have the right to remain in the United States. If they can’t prove their eligibility to remain in the US, they will be repatriated to their country of origin. In most cases, these children must navigate the immigration system alone, without an attorney, Child Advocate, or any other adult to help them.