The United States’ border crossing policy has separated thousands of immigrant and refugee children from their parents in recent weeks as their families seek refuge from persecution or violence. The moral imperative of standing with those who are fleeing violence—whether it’s from El Salvador or Syria--could not be more apparent, or more important. Those fleeing severe domestic violence, gang-related violence, or other forms of persecution perpetrated by non-state actors in Central America have the legal right to seek asylum without being criminalized or separated from their children.
How the IRC is Helping
In the United States
Prior to the separation policy, unaccompanied children were not those who were forcibly separated from their parents, but rather had come to the U.S. to seek protection on their own, often with the intention of reuniting with other family members residing in the U.S. Now, the population of unaccompanied children in U.S. custody includes thousands of children, including many babies and toddlers, who were taken from their parents at the border.
The IRC oversees post-release services for unaccompanied children, which includes:
- connecting them to legal providers to help with their asylum claim;
- providing unaccompanied children and sponsors basic orientation on their rights before referring them to legal services organizations who can directly work on their case;
- conducting home visits on foster parents to ensure that the home is safe for minors;
- training, information sharing and guiding of sponsors of unaccompanied children around issues ranging from education, legal assistance, and child welfare laws.
Before the administration ended the Central American Minors resettlement program in November 2017, the IRC also assisted families in the U.S. to apply for refugee status for their children in Central America, preventing the need for them to take the dangerous journey on their own.
In El Salvador
The IRC is also one of the first international organizations to declare a humanitarian crisis in El Salvador. Every year, an estimated 200,000-300,000 Salvadorans flee their homes in search of safety.
Working closely with the Salvadoran government and other local organizations, we are providing lifesaving information services to people who have been uprooted by growing violence as well as emergency assistance such as a cash relief and helping high-risk people find shelter and safety.
Does the IRC identify and train foster parents or sponsors?
The IRC does not identify sponsors for unaccompanied children; the US Health and Human Services takes the lead in finding the family members and potentially qualified sponsors. Most unaccompanied children seeking asylum are sponsored by family members already living in the United States in order to be released from detention while they are awaiting the adjudication of their asylum claims. The IRC conducts home visits to ensure the home is safe for minors. Children who have been forcibly separated by this policy intended to remain with their parents, so they may not have family members who can now take them in, complicating the task of identifying foster parents tremendously.
Can I foster children separated from their families?
The IRC does not facilitate adoptions or foster family placements, however our colleagues at United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services do offer some foster programs among their services.
Can I send supplies, toys, blankets or letters to detained children?
Our hearts are breaking too and we appreciate your compassion. The IRC does not have access to children in detention facilities, so we do not have the ability to provide materials to children at this time. Please consider making a donation to help children released from detention and calling your Representatives to demand a change to this cruel policy. If you have goods you would like to donate, please refer to the specific needs of Dallas office before sending materials.
What can I do to help?
Demand that your Representatives protect vulnerable families from separation. Take action now.
Support for the IRC in Dallas will help us provide vital legal assistance and access to services for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers.
Volunteer in our office and help us continue providing robust services to refugees in the Dallas area.
Learn more about the crisis at the U.S. border here.