The horror of on-again off-again forced family separation at the United States-Mexico border is part of a global trend. In the midst of continued concern at the human cost, as well as bureaucratic confusion at the heart of Administration policy, it is vital that the bigger picture is not lost.
Children, who represent half of the worlds displaced, are particularly vulnerable. Globally there has been a recent surge, with over 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children crossing borders in 80 countries in 2015 and 2016—a five-fold increase from just five years earlier. As we learned in June, a small minority have fled to the U.S., arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border after a long journey fraught with shocking levels of abuse and sexual violence.
This is a dangerous time for children taken into custody at the border. Their stories have largely faded from the front pages, but over three months past the deadline of a federal court order to reunite families, nearly 200 children are still alone in federal custody.
On September 30th the New York Times published a report, stating that migrant children have been relocated in the middle of the night—loading them onto buses to prepare for a cross country journey to new shelter: a barren tent city on a patch of desert in West Texas. In the past year, the average length of time that migrant children spend is custody has nearly doubled, and this poses as a solution for the federal government who is struggling to house this growing population of detainees.
At the IRC, we responded directly to the crisis at the border, working with separated children and providing medical, legal, and financial assistance. Today, we are still present on the front lines of this crisis, as we work to reunite children with their families, address the longevity this trauma will have on their lives.