Understanding the Legal Rights and Mental Health Needs of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in US Government Custody and Beyond

Key Points

  • Unaccompanied children have mental health rights rooted in the Flores Agreement, the US Constitution, federal statutes, and international law.
  • The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has made efforts to address unaccompanied children’s mental health needs, but additional policy changes, resources, and workforce investments are needed.
  • Clinicians can play an important role in supporting the mental health needs of children through collaboration with the Flores team, other legal advocates, and ORR to create a more fully operational trauma-informed immigration system that respects the mental health rights of children.

Over the past 7 years, I have interviewed hundreds of unaccompanied children in my role as counsel on the Flores v. Garland case. I have met children in the Donna, Texas border facility, unlicensed influx facilities, and emergency intake sites (EISs) at military bases, former mining barracks, and convention centers.

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