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Photo: Outdoor holding cells at a Border Patrol station in Tucson, Arizona ©Women’s Refugee Commission


*Written by Jennifer Podkul, Senior Program Officer of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (an IDC member organization)

For years the Women’s Refugee Commission has documented the U.S. government’s shortcomings in protecting unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, in particular, the failure of border agents to screen migrant children for protection needs. In a report released in mid-July, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) agents and officers conduct inadequate screening to assess whether a child arriving from Mexico or Canada:

1)      fears return to his/her country,

2)      is at risk of trafficking and

3)      is competent to decide if he/she wants to return home before seeing a judge.

As a result, an agreement was reached between the GAO and CBP to improve screening procedures of this vulnerable population to ensure children are not returned to danger or exploitation.  The U.S. government and the United Nations Hight Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) have asked Women’s Refugee Commission to help create a new screening tool and improved training for those responsible for screening children.


Read the Government Accountability Office Report

Read the Women’s Refugee Commission Press Release

Learn more about the work of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program