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USCRI Factsheet: Arriving Unaccompanied Children, July 2021

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Who are Unaccompanied Children?

Unaccompanied children (UCs) are minors who arrive in the United States without a parent or legal guardian and who do not hold legal immigration status. Typically, arriving UCs are placed into a network of shelters that are run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Shelter care providers offer temporary homes and services, including educational, medical, and mental health services and case management to reunite children with their families. In times of system stress, ORR may operate other facilities, including influx facilities and, more recently, emergency intake sites. The care and legal custody for UCs is governed by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and the Flores Settlement Agreement.

Arrivals of Unaccompanied Children

Since the federal fiscal year (FY21) began in October 2020, approximately 72,000 UCs have arrived in the United States for processing. FY21 arrivals-to-date have exceeded all years since 2017.1 Most observers expect that FY21 will exceed the arrivals of 2019, the current highwater mark. Many UCs would have come in FY20 but delayed their journeys because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many other UCs entering the United States were expelled under the prior Administration’s use of Title 42 to deny access to protection, in place from March to November 2020. At present FY21 arrivals appear to be a combination of cyclical high arrivals plus those unable to travel in FY20.