Yolanda* is 16 years old and comes from El Salvador. She made the journey to the United States alone - without any family or friends. Yolanda traveled thousands of miles relying on coyotes, or paid guides, to lead her through the mountains and deserts of Mexico. She was raped several times by different coyotes she had trusted to deliver her safely to the U.S.
Each year thousands of children come to the U.S. seeking protection, safety or to join their families. These children are unaccompanied, often traveling alone or with groups of strangers when making the long journey to cross U.S. borders. An increasing number of these children have become victims of traffickers and smugglers. Many have escaped violence, sexual abuse or abandonment in their home country, and are extremely vulnerable to rape and assault as they travel to the United States.
Watch "What Happens When I Go to Immigration Court?", a 14-minute video orientating unaccompanied children to the U.S. immigration court.
The Migrant Rights and Justice program has been working to ensure the rights and protection of vulnerable migrants for over 10 years. Our team is located in Washington, D.C. and works closely with the U.S. government, advocating for legislation and policy that protects unaccompanied children’s safety and well-being.
The newest UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's report concerns the rights of immigrant children. In partnership with the International Detention Coalition, the Women's Refugee Commission participated in the Committee’s Day of General Discussion in September 2012 to call attention to the plight of children who had been detained. Participants included WRC 2012 Voices of Courage honoree, Rim Tekie. The children's stories, combined with tireless advocacy by our Migrant Rights and Justice team among other organizations, has culminated in the most powerful recommendation the Committee has made to date: calling for all states to cease the detention of children based on their or their parents' immigration status.
*Names have been changed to protect women and children