Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Communities, Immigration Court, and Schools

Author: Sarah Pierce
Organization: Migration Policy Institute
Year Published: 2015

More than 102,000 unaccompanied children (UACs) from Central America and Mexico were apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S.-Mexico border between October 1, 2013 and August 31, 2015. The rapid influx of child arrivals in the spring and summer of 2014, which caught the attention of a concerned public and policymakers, briefly overwhelmed the systems in place for processing and caring for these children. While most of the Mexican children are quickly returned to Mexico, under U.S. law children from noncontiguous countries are transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be processed and simultaneously placed in removal proceedings. The vast majority of these are released by ORR into the custody of a parent, relative, or friend in the United States while they wait for their cases to progress through the immigration court system.  This issue brief summarizes the available data and qualitative research on where unaccompanied child migrants are being placed, how they are faring in immigration court, what types of services are available to them, and how communities, in particular schools, are adapting to their arrival.


Pierce, Sarah. 2015. Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Communities, Immigration Court, and Schools. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.