Voices from the Border: Voices of Unaccompanied Migrant and Refugees Children

February 26, 2020

For more than 30 years, the courts and Congress have carved out protections for unaccompanied minors who arrive at the southern U.S. border. Now these protections—including standards for detention and placement, applications for asylum and humanitarian visas, and reception of needed services—are at risk. Moreover, the administration has begun to fast track the removal cases of unaccompanied minors in immigration courts in border states. And it is effectively creating more unaccompanied minors through border policies that bar access to asylum, criminalize relatives, foster family separation, and leave children without shelter, schooling, and security in Mexico.

Refugees International and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) are co-hosting a conversation about the importance of protections for unaccompanied minors and the impact of recent changes in policy toward them. Panelists include immigration advocates and a young woman who fled from Guatemala for the United States when she was 15 years old.


Yael Schacher is the senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International where she focuses on asylum, refugee admissions, temporary protected status, humanitarian visas, and immigration practices with protection implications. Follow her on Twitter @YaelSchacher.


Olivia M. Peña is the managing attorney at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights Harlingen office where she oversees a team of attorneys, social workers, and dozens of volunteers who help advocate for unaccompanied and separated children in immigration custody.  

Jennifer Podkul is the vice president for policy at KIND. She has worked on behalf of unaccompanied immigrant children providing legal representation in court as well as advocating for policies aimed at improving access to protection.    

Yoselyn Michell Vasquez Sanchez fled from Guatemala when she was 15 years old. After gaining asylum in the United States, Yoselyn graduated Salutatorian from Washington Lee High School and made the Dean’s List in her first semester at Marymount University.