Unaccompanied refugee minors program, small but could grow
Posted by Ann Corcoran on December 20, 2016
Two days ago we reported that Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) had introduced a bill in the waning days of the Congress to admit 25,000 Syrian ‘orphans’ to the US.
So I found this story interesting and something you should know about. We do have a program for ‘unaccompanied refugee minors’ not to be confused with the ‘unaccompanied alien children’ flooding across our southern border at the moment (and for the last few years). The refugee minors program is for children who are deemed refugees (not the phony asylum seekers from Central America). Although I think the reporter in the story at US News has the efforts confused.
Or, is it possible that the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement really has no authority to pay out over a billion dollars a year for those illegal alien children and is doing it under this one?
This news says they (resettlement agency reps) can find very few truly ‘unaccompanied’ children from Syria (although they are looking!) because most, if separated, quickly find parents or family members who take them in. This makes me wonder why Rep. Honda felt there was a need to bring in 25,000 orphaned Syrian children on a “temporary” basis.
From US News:
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, or LIRS, and eight other refugee resettlement groups have worked with the federal government to resettle roughly 17,000 Syrian refugees, including many children within family units, since the conflict broke out in the country in 2011. But of those, the State Department says only one has been a minor without a parent or guardian to care for him or her. Out of privacy concerns, they could give no details about the minor.
The U.S. has the capacity to accept more orphans from the war-ravaged country, Haynes and other experts say. It’s just that for now – as jarring as it might sound while Aleppo’s trapped children plead for help – there aren’t many Syrian minors who qualify for this particular form of assistance.
The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program in the United States is the only formal program in the world that is specifically designed to bring unaccompanied refugee children into a unique domestic foster care system, says Haynes. Since its founding after the Vietnam War, the program has accepted about 13,000 minors. It’s a relatively small program, admitting about 200 children last year.
The system gives refugees access to all the support available in the regular foster care system, but also provides additional assistance for things like language training and mental health services. It’s a federally funded program, and like all refugee resettlement services, can be changed or terminated at the whim of the president.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service monopolize this federal grant program.
Children can come into the program a range of ways. They’re frequently referred by United Nations refugee agency partners based in other countries. In other scenarios, they’ve crossed the southern border and are classified as victims of trafficking or asylum seekers. LIRS works with another group, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to place the children. The program prioritizes family reunification, meaning officials try to place minors with relatives who are able and willing to care for them before putting them in the foster care system.
Now, pay attention to this! Once the ‘unaccompanied’ refugee reaches the age of 18, he she doesn’t leave, but can apply for family members to come to America!
Ensuring that minors are truly unaccompanied takes time, she says. And once they qualify and arrive in the U.S., they can’t apply for any family member to join them in the U.S. until after they are 18.