News stories about the  recent surge in unaccompanied minor children entering the United States from Central America have begun to address the applicable legal framework: the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which provides for these children to be transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services. (See Carl Hulse, Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking, NY Times July 7, 2014). Some children may ultimately be required to return to their home countries, but others will qualify for various forms of immigration relief, including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a T or U visa (for victims of trafficking or other serious crimes) or asylum.

ORR works with many state and private agencies to attempt to reunite children with their family members or provide foster care placement and services as the process unfolds. Responses to the current emergency situation have not adequately addressed the social services needs of these children however.  For more on this, see this Family Routes blog post from International Social Service USA Branch (ISS-USA). Other agencies working closely with these children include the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (see their Backgrounder leaflet) and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (see also herehere, and here).

Advocacy organizations that have been addressing these issues include the Refugee Council USAUS Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI); and the Center for American Progress.