Save the Children Is Committed to Children and Families Seeking Asylum

Children fleeing violence, poverty and the devastating effects of climate change deserve protection. Many have undertaken atreacherous journey to the U.S. southern border to seek refuge in our nation.

For more than 100 years, Save the Children has protected the world’s children from harm and ensured their rights are upheld. Today, we are working along the U.S. southern border through a network of shelter partners and social service agencies that welcome and support asylum seekers.

There is no single solution — alleviating the crisis at the U.S. Southern border will take a combination of advocacy, policy changes and humanitarian aid.  Together, we must do everything in our power to help children and families seeking safety in the U.S. 

A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador.

A Timeline of the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis

2013 - 2014

Between October 2013 and September 2014, over 68,500 unaccompanied children from Central America cross into the United States seeking refuge from unimaginable violence, brutal gangs, crushing poverty and other challenges in their home countries. Another 66,000 families — primarily mothers and their children — also arrive at the border after leaving their communities for these same reasons.

At the peak of the exodus in the spring and summer of 2014, children and families overwhelm the capacity of federal agencies charged with processing and providing minimal services for people entering the U.S. across the border.

Save the Children mobilizes a response to address the physical and emotional needs of immigrant children and their mothers.


In the months leading to April 2018, the U.S. government increases restrictions on immigration, with children bearing a significant burden of the policy changes. 

In April, the administration announces a new “zero-tolerance” policy toward border crossings that instituted criminal proceedings for every adult caught crossing the border illegally. 

The policy forcibly separates more than 2,300 children and their families, causing great trauma and harm. Very young children and adolescents are held in prison-like detention for extended periods with little to no attention to their emotional and physical well-being. Many parents, often mothers traveling with children, are also held in indefinite detention.

As a global leader in supporting family reunifications, Save the Children works to help parents locate and safely reunite with their children, and from there, supports them in getting access to essential services they need to re-establish themselves.


In late 2018, people from Honduras and Guatemala, intent on escaping violence and entrenched poverty, join caravans in the hope of reaching the Mexico-U.S. border. 

By mid-year, legislation is proposed for children who arrive at the southern border to be held in federal custody for up to 100 days. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) CEO Mark Shriver expresses his strong opposition, calling the legislation "a grave violation of children’s rights."

In June 2019, Save the Children Trustee and actress Jennifer Garner visits Save the Children’s newly opened programs in New Mexico, which are helping migrant children and families once they have been released from U.S. government detention centers.

By the end of June, Save the Children and SCAN generate more than 250,000 letters to the Administration and members of Congress, urging action to protect vulnerable children.


Nearly two years on, an estimated 70,000 Central American children and adults are currently “waiting” in border cities like Ciudad Juarez, Nogales and Matamoros, places rife with violence and exploitation that target this population.

Complete border closures in response to COVID-19 further exacerbated the situation so that children and families are immediately turned away without opportunities to make their asylum claims under due process. 

March 2020 marks nearly 200,000 people having been “expelled” from the U.S. southern border – including 8,800 unaccompanied children. 

In November 2020, the expulsion of unaccompanied children is finally stopped by the courts.


Save the Children urgently calls on the new Biden Administration and members of Congress, regardless of political affiliation, to come together around a shared oath for kids at home and across the world. This includes developing and acting on plans to humanely protect families seeking help on the U.S. southern border.

The number of unaccompanied children taken into border authority custody after crossing the southern border grows dramatically by the day – nearly 15,000 in January and February alone. Thousands of children are being held in short-term law enforcement facilities longer than the 72 hours allowed by law. 

In May, the Biden administration announces a crucial step in the right direction – that it will begin to reunite families separated under the prior administration. 

In June, reports surface that migrant children are being housed in inhumane conditions in a government-run shelter in El Paso, Texas.


In 2022, we held more than 50 meetings with members of Congress and the Administration to end exclusionary policies that impact children and families seeking safety and protection in the U.S. 

We also worked closely with the Family Reunification Task Force, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the administration to ensure that unaccompanied children can be reunified in a timely manner and receive all the necessary protections and services they deserve. 

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As Save the Children is helping meet the urgent needs of children and families, your donation to the U.S. Border Children's Relief fund can support our work at the U.S.-Mexico Border. 


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