The Arc Condemns Deteriorating Treatment of Unaccompanied Minors in US Custody

Recent reports indicate that the federal government will restrict or cancel educational, recreational and legal services for thousands of children held in government migrant shelters.

These practices are cruel and misguided. Research shows that trauma in childhood can have serious and lifelong consequences.  There is no evidence indicating that any time in detention is safe for children. As the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated, recreational and social enrichment activities, such as opportunities for physical activity and creative expression, may alleviate stress and build resilience and should be part of any program for detained children. Adequate recreational and educational activities for children being held in these shelters is both the necessary and compassionate course of action.  These services and activities are central to childhood development and wellbeing and their absence, particularly for an extended period, may cause long-term losses.

Reports also indicate that these children will no longer have access to legal services.  The Arc believes that children and families should have access to legal counsel throughout the immigration pathway, and unaccompanied minors should have free legal counsel with them for all appearances before an immigration judge. Adequate legal services must be restored immediately.

We call on the federal government to ensure that these children are treated with dignity and respect, with access to educational, recreational and legal services, and not subjected to conditions that may cause harm. At minimum, children deserve protection from additional traumatization in the United States. We remain deeply concerned about the impact this will have on children with and without disabilities.