Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC)

Unaccompanied alien children (UAC) are undocumented migrant children who come to the United States unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. When these children are apprehended, they are typically put into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), typically shortly after their entry into the United States. These children often embark on a dangerous journey from their home countries to escape persecution or other violence, and some have family already in the United States. Many children endure trafficking or abuse during their journey.

Before 2012, the number of arriving unaccompanied children had averaged between 6,000 and 7,000 annually. However, by the end of Fiscal Year 2012 the number of UAC who entered into ORR custody had increased to nearly 14,000, and then nearly doubled again to nearly 25,000 in Fiscal Year 2013. Most of these children come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Additionally, more girls are arriving now due to increasing gender-based violence in Central America. Due to worsening conditions at home, these vulnerable children continue to risk the journey to the United States in increasing numbers. In fiscal year 2014, it is estimated that more than 60,000 vulnerable children will arrive in need of protection.

To learn more about unaccompanied alien children, and the work of RCUSA's members and partners, see these reports and backgrounders:

RCUSA recommendations on the in-country processing program in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala

Backgrounder on Protecting Unaccompanied Migrant Children, LIRS

Step-by-Step Guide on Apprehension and Detention of Juvenlies in the United States, Women's Refugee Commission

Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection, UNHCR

A Treacherous Journey: Child Migrants Navigating the U.S. Immigration System,KIND and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Mission to Central America: The Flight of Unaccompanied Children to the United States, USCCB

Forced From Home: The Lost Boys and Girls of Central America, Women's Refugee Commission

Mexico's Unseen Victims, Refugees International

The Changing Face of the Unaccompanied Alien Child: A Portrait of Foreign-Born Children in Federal Foster Care and How to Best Meet Their Needs, USCCB

Immigration Relief for Children in Federal Foster Care Before and After the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, USCCB

Forced Displacement and Protection Needs produced by new forms of Violence and Criminality in Central America, CIDEHUM

Post-Release Services FAQ, USCCB & LIRS

Unaccompanied Alien Children: Policies and Issues, Congressional Research Service