• Issues

    Pin It

    The Central American children coming over the United States border are frequently fleeing violence, abuse, and crippling poverty. Forced from Home: the Lost Boys and Girls of Central America, a 2012 report by the WRC, documented the beginning of the increase in unaccompanied children seeking asylum. A UN recent study found that nearly 58% of these children report protection concerns that would qualify them as refugees. To learn more about this humanitarian crisis, visit our unaccompanied children webpage.

    Many kind Americans have come forward, wanting to help these children. Here are some ways that you can become involved: 

    Donate to the Women's Refugee Commission

    Your donations support the Migrant Rights & Justice program, which has been fighting for migrant children for many. In fact, we were the first to publish a major report on what is driving unaccompanied children to the United States and what can be done to help them. We work closely with the U.S. government agencies to ensure that the the refugee children and families are treated humanely and fairly. 

    Your donations are greatly appreciated, and help ensure that the children have the best possible chance at justice and safety. 

    If You Know a Refugee Who Has Been Detained

    For legal assistance for detained refugees, contact the UNHCR hotline or AILA. To contact UNCHR from outside the detention center, dial 1-888-272-1913; to contact UNHCR from inside the detention center, dial 566#. To contact AILA, see details on their webpage

    Donated Goods

    The facilitates that hold unaccompanied children are generally not allowed to accept donated goods. Unfortunately, for now, we do not see a way around this. In the past, some centers have accepted donations - including used clothing, books and toys - but the rules are all changing. It is unclear if this same rule will apply at the facilitates that DHS has created for families ("adults with children"), or whether the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) facilities will maintain the same policies. Books, warm hats, stuffed animals, story time, art projects--donations like that will be very valuable if detention center policy is changed to permit them. 


    Many of the children coming to the U.S. have family members domestically who can care for them. However, shelters and foster families are a critical need for other children and families. If you are interested in being a foster family for some of the very young children or pregnant girls that are arriving, the best advice is to begin the process to become licensed foster parents. This would be run through your local child welfare organization, and would be 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 Social Services for Children and Families.  

    Financial Support

    For immediate support, the best answer may be financial support to organizations working on the issue alongside the WRC. Aside from the Women's Refugee Commission, FEMA and the Red Cross are helping with coordination and assistance at border patrol stations, so there may be a way to donate or volunteer through them. Baptist Family and Children's Services is also staffing the Office of Refugee Resettlement emergency facilities; while we do not know their policies. There have also been some groups on the ground in El Paso, Tucson, and Brownsville region that provided assistance at bus stations and elsewhere to families that were released after being placed into proceedings. Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, led by Sister Norma Pimentel, has many ideas for donations. Raices in Texas provides excellent legal and educational support to refugees and migrants.

    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:

    • This is a humanitarian crisis, not an immigration crisis.
    • These children's rights should be protected.
    • They should have a chance to tell their experiences, and their claims should evaluated to see if they qualify as refugees.

    Other Options

    Here's another summary of ways to help. Also try calling 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.

    As these children are reunited with family or sponsors, they will be entering communities throughout the country and will be (we hope) enrolling in school. In would be great for people to support them in their local communities. Schools and churches are a good place to start.