On January 28, 2016, the Young Center submitted a Statement for the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee regarding the safety of unaccompanied children released to sponsors.
Unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children are—first and foremost—children. Whenever possible they should be safely released to family or sponsors who are able to care for them while their immigration proceedings are pending. Expert research has concluded that detaining children is particularly problematic because detention can have long term and devastating effects on the physical, psychological and emotional development of a child. Protecting children who have been placed in federal custody but who seek release to family or other sponsors is a complex issue that requires a nuanced response. We appreciate the challenges that ORR faces balancing the need to place unaccompanied children in the least restrictive setting and ensuring that when children are released they are safe and secure, and have access to help if needed. We urge Congress to make sure the Office of Refugee Resettlement has the resources needed to provide robust post release follow-up services, ensure legal representation for all children and appoint independent Child Advocates for vulnerable unaccompanied children. Here is a link to the Young Center Statement.