UNICEF USA Statement on the Protection of Children at our Southern Border

May 29, 2018


NEW YORK (May 29, 2018) – UNICEF USA is calling on America to urgently revise its strategies for protecting children at our southern border. We must not punish children who come here seeking protection and an escape from violence and poverty.

For those children fortunate enough to make their journey with family members, we’re calling on our leadership to end the separation of children from their parents as a deterrent tactic. Separation from family leaves children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, no matter what the care setting. And, traumatic separation creates toxic stress in children and adolescents that can profoundly impact their development and increase the risk for stress-related disease well into adulthood.

Fear of separation and detention is one of the factors driving many children away from care and protection. Reports of missing children are extremely alarming, and we urge authorities to act swiftly to ensure they are safe and cared for.

"Children need to be defined by their age, not their borders. Regardless of immigration status, children are children first and need to be treated as such," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of UNICEF USA. "Children bear no responsibility for the political differences in our world. Every child I've met, on both sides of our border, and around the globe, only wants to be safe and protected with hopes for a bright future."

The best way to protect the more than 50 million children who have crossed borders or migrated due to poverty, violence and circumstances beyond their control is to keep them with their parents and families.

UNICEF USA has called for the protection of children at our borders since January 2017, and again in March 2017. In February 2018, UNICEF USA sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen, encouraging her to keep children with their parents. We renew that call again today - we need stronger policies to prevent children from being separated from their families in transit and faster procedures to reunite families. And, we need to ensure that children arriving alone are safe and accounted for throughout the process. We urge American leadership to end these harmful practices and put children first.

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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For more information, contact:

Lauren Davitt, UNICEF USA, 212-922-2503, ldavitt@unicefusa.org