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News & Press: Advocacy

Engage Now to Protect Child Migrants

Monday, July 29, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Algeria Wilson
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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continues to be deeply concerned about the care and treatment of children who have migrated with or without their families from the Northern Triangle countries in Central America and who are seeking asylum. All of these children have been traumatized by the conditions in their countries - including gang violence. They have been further traumatized by having to flee their country of origin (in many cases, separated from their parents). Many of these children are experiencing mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.


The physical, emotional, and mental well-being of these vulnerable children are further compromised by the Administration's ill-advised border enforcement policies.  The documented harsh conditions of their confinement, including placement in extremely overcrowded Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities and denial of access to beds, adequate nutrition and medical and mental health care, causes needless trauma to these children. This maltreatment amounts to child abuse and neglect and violates child protection policies, practices and laws in every state and U.S. territory.


NASW is engaged in a number of capacities to address and end this humanitarian crisis, including meeting with key congressional leaders, conducting site visits of child detention facilities, participating in numerous immigration-related coalitions and advocating for legislative and administrative action. Social workers must continue to take a leadership role in fighting to protect these children's welfare and human rights. Outlined below are ways that social workers can help end this crisis - starting today, you can make a difference.


Federal Legislation

Congressional lawmakers have introduced numerous bills aimed at promoting the humane treatment of child migrants. We encourage you to reach out to your lawmakers now to express your support for them. Stay tuned for NASW Action Alerts on these and other bills which will enable you to contact your lawmakers directly.

  • Keep Families Together Act (H.R. 541/S. 292):  The bill is designed to comprehensively limit the separation of families at or near ports of entry.
  • Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act (H.R. 3918/S. 2113): This bill  would end family separations at the southern border, strengthen health and safety protections for children and families, and provide additional guardrails and stronger standards to ensure that government funds are not used to traumatize or harm asylum seekers.
  • Family Reunification Act (H.R. 3312): This bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for an extension of the application period for certain undocumented individuals present in the United States for adjustment of status.
  • U.S. Border Patrol Medical Screening Standards Act (H.R. 3525): The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Commissioner of CBP to establish uniform processes for medical screening of individuals interdicted between ports of entry.
  • Strategic and Humane Southern Border Migrant Response Act (H.R. 3731):The bill is intended to respond to the Northern Triangle migrant surge at the southern border in a strategic and humane manner.

To learn more about other immigration-related legislation, please click HERE.


State Investigations


Based on widespread media coverage and other reports (see below), governors and state lawmakers in states where HHS and ORR facilities are located likely have the authority to order state oversight agencies to investigate the facilities. Social workers in these states are urged to contact their governors and state lawmakers to urge them to order these agencies, including CPS and facility licensing agencies, to take proactive steps to ensure the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of child migrants and to promptly follow up on reports of suspected child maltreatment at these facilities. We have prepared a sample letter that you can personalize for this purpose.  




The following resources are intended to provide you with information about NASW's immigration policy positions, statements on immigration policies about which we have had concerns, and related resources to aid you in your advocacy to protect child migrants.


NASW Social Justice Briefs


NASW has developed and disseminated a number of Social Justice Briefs articulating the social work perspective on immigration policies, legislation, and regulations. Several of our briefs are listed below.


Unaccompanied Migrant Children: Overview & Recommendations


Migrant and Asylum-Seeking Families: Analysis of Federal Government Policies and Procedures


Intersection of Sanctuary Cities, National Immigration Policies, and Child Welfare Policies and Practices in the Trump Era


Other NASW Resources


How to Volunteer to Help Immigrant Children Separated from Family

NASW Research Library: Immigration


NASW Immigration Web Page


Please check back here for regular updates about the current crisis as well as other developments around immigration and social work.




Mel Wilson, LCSW

Senior Policy Consultant, Social Justice


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