Since 2014, EBSC has provided legal assistance to more than 600 unaccompanied children fleeing gang violence, human trafficking, and domestic abuse in their home countries.
With our help, these youth are often able to obtain asylum, reunify with their family members, and finally feel safe.
Why do children flee to the United States for safety?
“Cosme” and “Vicente” are brothers from Guatemala, ages 16 and 18. They experienced brutal beatings from their grandmother. When Cosme was 12, he was kidnapped and beaten by a well-known gang. With the help of a fellow kidnap victim, Cosme escaped. Over the next few years, the boys experienced daily threats and beatings from gang members. At one point, the two brothers lived on their own for a month, completely defenseless, when they were 14 and 11 years old; they were deeply frightened and hardly ever left their house.
Why are so many children hazarding this dangerous journey alone?
Cosme and Vicente decided to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. in search of their mother whom they hadn’t seen in eight years – if they had stayed in Guatemala, they were certain they would be killed.
They are not alone: political instability, economic stagnation, and organized crime continue to plague many countries, where the cost of not cooperating with a gang is often death or harassment. Honduras and El Salvador currently have the two highest murder rates in the world, with Guatemala clocking in at fifth place. Children may also suffer physical and sexual abuse or neglect at the hands of their caretakers, driving them to seek refuge on their own.
On the long journey to the U.S. border, unaccompanied children face even greater dangers than adult refugees: drug and human trafficking, immigration raids, rape, and assault, in addition to exhaustion and constant uncertainty.
What stands out is the resilience of these youth, many of whom have experienced trauma in their home country, on their journey to the U.S., during detention in immigration centers, or in the process of adjusting to a new culture, all while fighting for legal status. Some have experienced multiple layers of violence, discrimination and trauma due to being LGBT, indigenous, or survivors of sexual violence.
Facts about Unaccompanied Migrant Children
- In 2018, more than 50,000 unaccompanied children were stopped at the border; in January 2019, apprehensions of minors traveling alone had increased 40%.
- There are currently not enough low-fee attorneys to meet the needs of the growing numbers of unaccompanied children seeking legal services.
- Many unaccompanied children never meet with a lawyer and have no access to legal representation during court hearings. Youth without representation are far more likely to be deported.