U.S. Border Crisis

Increasing numbers of children fleeing violence and insecurity in their Central American and Mexican communities are seeking refuge form violence and poverty in the United States. Watch the 'Generation in Crisis' video and see the current border crisis and Save the Children's efforts to secure the safety of children.

The Emergency

A silent crisis is unfolding in Central America and Mexico and at stake is a generation of children. Last year we saw an exodus of children and families embarking on a life-threatening trip covering tens of thousands of miles and facing unfathomable horrors to reach the United States. This trend is unfortunately continuing into 2015.

From October 2014 to February 2015, more than 100,000 children risked their lives to reach the US border. They have experienced harmful and dangerous events along the way, lured by promises of safety and economic prosperity in the US. More than 68,000 unaccompanied children made it across the Mexican border into the US in 2014 and more than 18,000 children were turned back, detained and then repatriated. Upon repatriation, these children have to return to lives that they fled in the first place; lives that are often afflicted by violence, poverty and bleak prospects the future. Our country offices report that children are returning stigmatized and often feel sad and hopeless, having spent a fortune ($5,000-$10,000) and "failed."

It is our mandate at Save the Children to look at how children can be better protected along the route of migration, at the destination locations and upon their return to the countries of origin. Another critical component of this response strategy is how to prevent migration in the first place, by addressing root causes such as violence, poverty and lack of access to basic services. Through increasing access to basic and vocational education, violence prevention programs and advocacy towards the governments to address the situation, we can improve children’s lives and help stem the flow of migration.

USA Today features Save the Children’s Carlos Carrazana’s Op-ed on the Child Border Crisis. Read his Op-ed.

Stories from Children on the Borderline

Make a Wish!

Benito* celebrates his 10th birthday at our Child-Friendly Space near the U.S. border in McAllen, Texas.

Escaping "Black Fridays"

Young Eduardo* sadly left his home in El Salvador because home had become a far too dangerous place.

Little People, Big Dreams

Gabriela,* recently widowed, fled her home – all to fulfill her dream of giving her children a better life.

Sofia's Choice

Mother of four, Sofia* risked everything to attain a better future for at least one of her children.

Beautiful Mother and Daughter

Both Mother and daughter tell us their stories of escaping gang violence and poverty in Honduras.

What Choice Did I Have?

Halfway through their harrowing, month-long journey to the U.S. border, Paloma* considered turning back.

I Just Didn't Let Her Go

Andrea* was fearless in the face of danger to save her little one, in the hopes of giving her daughter a better life.

They Treat People So Badly

After a local school teacher was killed in front of students, Maribel* and her son left their Honduras home.

Birth in a Detention Center

Carmen* was pregnant when she left Honduras with her two young children.

They Locked Us Up

Diego* spent his 7th birthday in a U.S. Customs Border Protection facility.

Gang Threatened Her Children

Gang members demanded that Beatriz pay $2,000 or they would kill her children.

Three Guns Pointed at Her Head

"We don't come here to do any harm. We come because we don't want to be killed."

Sing, Dance, Wash Your Hands!

A new helper has joined Save the Children in our Child-Friendly Spaces.

El Camino Más Largo (The Longest Path)

This documentary outlines the plight of children trying to enter the USA.

"Parents have made the desperate decision to send children alone across thousands of miles. These children have already faced a long and dangerous journey to reach the United States, and are extremely vulnerable to further harm. We are working quickly to identify their needs and help provide them a safe space where they receive the age-appropriate care and support they need." — Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children.

The Impact on Children

Many of the children who are arriving at the U.S. border are escaping unthinkable violence, and some have been victimized during their long journey. Children are suffering from a variety of illnesses, dehydration and diarrhea. They are in urgent need of protective adult care and supportive supervision, medical and hygiene care and nutritious meals.

The border crisis has worsened as children are being held in detention facilities until they can be reunited with a family member or transferred to foster-care type settings (for children younger than 12) or large detention shelters (for children older than 12). However, because the system has been overwhelmed by the influx of children, the Customs and Border Patrol quickly established large detention processing sites, where as many as 1,200 children may be detained during that process.

Our Response:

Looking ahead, the following areas of intervention will be our priorities in 2015:

  • Root causes of the child migration crisis: Livelihoods programs, access to basic and vocational education and violence prevention programs.
  • Children in transit: Prevention of trafficking and exploitation, provide support and perform monitoring activities in detention Centers, promote and support fair treatment of child migrants including screening procedures to determine the best interest of the child.
  • Upon return: Guarantee a safe and adequate repatriation process and reception for returning unaccompanied child migrants. Provide psychosocial care; income generation; reintegration programs into school; positive parenting programs and programs for eradicating domestic violence.
  • Immediate assistance: Provide short-term housing for children upon arrival; medical and psychosocial care; food and non-food kits.
  • Advocacy and awareness-raising: Advocate for strengthened child protection systems and fair screening procedures for determination of best interest of the child. Coordinate with other NGOs to raise awareness on the issue of child migration, its risks and rights.
  • Research: Continue to generate evidence to support the development of intervention models that work.

Save the Children is advocating that the U.S. Government move quickly to transfer children out of border protection facilities, immediately improve the difficult conditions they face and to allow child protection experts to assess and monitor the border protection stations where the children are first processed.

We will also advocate for a long-term response that includes private/public collaboration to address the needs of these children. Regardless of immigrant or refugee status, we #choosechildren.

Our Programs in Central America

Save the Children country offices in Central America are providing protection programs to help ensure the protection and safe treatment of children in their counties. We will be working with partners in the region to explore how we can expand this work to address both the protection needs and underlying causes of this migration.

10 percent of your contribution will be allocated to our Domestic Emergency Fund and help Save the Children respond to future emergencies in the United States. Your support helps Save the Children provide assistance in the first hours and days of a domestic emergency; deploy relief experts immediately to a crisis; provide seed funding to provide emergency services faster; pre-position emergency relief supplies; support emergency preparedness in communities and provide coordination from headquarters to support program delivery.

How You Can Help

Donate now and help Save the Children ensure these children receive the care and protection they urgently need.

Updated March 2015

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