There are special protections under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that apply to unaccompanied children. After all, young people may lack the ability to advocate for themselves in the way that an adult might. KIND helps provide representation to between 50 and 60 percent of those young people — but Young fears that the percentage will drop now that the pool of unaccompanied children is being deliberately expanded.
“It has very serious consequences for the underlying case,” she said. “Because now you have a child — and this is being done with infants, even, babies — now you have a child with a much more challenging case detached from the parent. Very often they’re not being allowed to even communicate and in some cases the parent’s being deported and the child’s being left behind.”
When the child is meeting with an attorney or appearing before a judge, their ability to explain why they are there and the reasons they might be seeking refuge are limited. There’s a parent who could potentially answer those questions — but that parent was moved by the Department of Homeland Security to another facility. The child, detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has likely had no contact with his or her parent.