In light of recent reports about the treatment of migrant children in government custody, many generous Americans have come forward, wanting to help. Here are some ways that you can become involved:

Learn the facts – what is our government doing?

The Trump administration has been implementing policies at our southern border that are endangering and harming families and children. The policies are designed to discourage migrants from seeking assistance at our southern border despite evidence that these families are fleeing horrific violence and that cruel border policies are ineffective and do not reduce migration flows. The migrants arriving at our southern border are seeking refuge for their families and have no other place to go, and any of us would do the same. Families are being separated, children are being held in filthy and dangerous conditions, and children are dying in US custody as the Trump administration ramps up these deterrence policies – some of which are illegal and all of which threaten our values as a nation.

This is not a question of funding for Customs and Border Protection, or a need for more detention capacity. It is not an asylum crisis. It is a political and moral crisis created and exacerbated by an administration holding innocent children hostage to score political points. Since its first days in office, this administration has implemented policies that have strained our processing systems, harmed children, and caused chaos and confusion, including:

We must preserve our asylum system and defend laws, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act [TVPRA] and the Flores Settlement, which protect the rights of the most vulnerable people in our nation. We should utilize proven alternatives to detention which are more cost effective, efficient, and humane ways to process asylum seekers. We should stop forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases are processed – a policy that is already being challenged in court. We can and must invest in smart comprehensive and humane solutions to the reality that children and families are fleeing Central America and seeking protection at our border.

Support the Women’s Refugee Commission

Your donations support the Migrant Rights and Justice program, which has been fighting for migrant children for many years. We work to hold the government accountable and to ensure that refugee children and families are treated humanely and fairly. We travel around the country monitoring and inspecting detention centers and border enforcement policies. We work with litigators and service providers to expose and halt mistreatment. We work to reunify separated families and empower them by connecting them to resources. And we work with Congress and policymakers to preserve and strengthen human and civil rights for migrants. Your donations are greatly appreciated and help ensure that families and children have the best possible chance at justice and safety.

Speak out and educate the people around you

This is not an immigration crisis – it is not an asylum crisis – it is a management crisis. Providing humane treatment to refugee children is a basic American value. Speak out on social media and educate the people closest to you on the facts.

Call your government representatives

Call your local, state, and/or national representatives to let them know that you think this is a humanitarian issue. You can find your federal senators and representatives here. Key messages include:

  • Protect children’s rights. Do not eliminate any existing protections for immigrant children and families. Protections are not loopholes.
  • Give children the chance to tell their experiences, and evaluate their claims to see if they qualify as refugees.
  • Establish standards for the humane treatment of children (and families) in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody
  • This is a crisis of leadership, not a crisis of insufficient resources.
  • Prevent the government from re-directing any additional emergency funds to other enforcement purposes.

Donate goods

The government facilitates that hold unaccompanied children are generally not allowed to accept donated goods. However, private migrant shelters need supplies. Consider sending donations like books, clothing, stuffed animals, story time, and art projects to a local shelter near you.

Support migrant children and families in your community

As these families and children are released and reunited with family or sponsors, they will be entering communities throughout the country. They have undergone long journeys and find themselves in strange new environments. Offer support, friendship, and encouragement. Show them they are welcome here. Schools, churches, and community centers are a good place to start. When the new school year starts, keep an eye out for new students in your child’s school or new players on the soccer team. Offer assistance and support.


Most of the children coming to the US have family members in this country who can care for them. However, many families are afraid to come forward. In the meantime, shelters and foster families are a critical need for some children. If you are interested in being a foster family for some of the very young children or pregnant girls who are arriving, the best advice is to begin the process to become licensed foster parents. This is run through your local child welfare organization and is required by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. For more details, look at this page of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s website, and at the two organizations that generally manage foster care for unaccompanied minors: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

If you know a refugee who has been detained

For legal assistance for detained refugees, contact the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) hotline or American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). To contact UNCHR from outside a detention center, dial 1-888-272-1913; to contact UNHCR from inside a detention center, dial 566#. To contact AILA, see details on their webpage.

If you were separated from your child while trying to access protection at the US border between July 2017 and June 2018

Toll-free phone numbers are available for families separated by the United States government between July 2017 and June 2018 to reach a court-appointed Steering Committee for additional information.

View a list of these phone numbers and more information on these family separations.

Ways to support adults (who are also often parents)

  • Visit immigrants in detention centers in your area. Not all detention centers are at the border. ICE has hundreds of detention centers all over the country. You are allowed to visit detention centers. Many areas have visitation programs so that you can volunteer to be a visitor and provide moral support for immigrants in detention. Check out this list to see if your city or state has such a program.
  • Volunteer with local service providers in your area. to accompany immigrants to immigration court and ICE check-in appointments: Some organizations coordinate accompaniment to court or ICE check-in appointments. Others need interpreters or people to babysit children while they interview parents. There is not one national organization overseeing these local efforts. Look around in your area.

Other options

Call your local government to see if they have set up a task force, especially in areas that have a large immigrant population. New York, for example, has several small non-profits that are directly helping these children.