Unaccompanied Alien Children Crisis

Understanding the Crisis and How Your Organization Can Help

UPDATE: September 19, 2014

State and County sponsors and placements

The HHS Administration for Children and Families has posted aggregated state-by-state numbers of children placements HERE. ACF also provides a breakdown of where sponsors live by county HERE. The county-level data is limited to sponsors of 50 or more children, but covers 113 counties nationwide and comprises 27,706 of the 37,477 total children released to sponsors since January 1, 2014. ACF will update this data each month.

UPDATE: September 17, 2014

Refugees and Affordable Care Act videos available

The Office of Refugee Resettlement has a short YouTube video titled "Refugees and the Affordable Care Act" available in Somali, Karen, Nepali, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, and English. To view the video please visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/health. The video also describes the importance of primary care and health insurance and highlights key health literacy words to help orient refugees to the health care system in the United States. The Office of Refugee Resettlement also has a Guide which details ways refugees and service providers can use the video. The guide includes sample messages you can use to share the video among your own network through social media, emails and newsletters.

UPDATE: September 9, 2014

Congress returned to work on September 8, after failing to pass legislation to protect children and families seeking refuge in the United States before their August recess. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) has new resources at its Action Center for those who wish to advocate for migrants and vulnerable refugees with their policymakers.

Meanwhile, LSA members are participating in the conversation and response in a variety of ways. Those include:

  • Lutheran Social Services of the South has received a $100,000 grant from the LCMS Office of National Mission to help open an emergency shelter in McAllen, Texas, and provide Spanish language bibles and devotional materials for the up to 6,000 young immigrants it plans to shelter over the next year. Story here
  • Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska joined 18 Nebraska social justice and social service groups in calling on the Nebraska Congressional Delegation to safeguard the rights of the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the border. The group released guidelines to help ensure immigrant children’s rights are preserved. Story here
  • Wellspring Lutheran Services in cooperation with Lutheran Social Services of Michigan will provide shelter for unaccompanied alien children in Farmington Hills and Bay City. More here. Additional coverage includes a comprehensive article on the arrival of unaccompanied minor children in Michigan and an update on the arrival date.
  • Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains has partnered with Denver Human Services and Denver Health in a grant application to provide temporary shelter, care and support for unaccompanied alien children. Story here
UPDATE: July 17, 2014 

Dear Colleagues:

We are all impacted on some level by the current crisis concerning unaccompanied children crossing the border in unprecedented numbers. We know that, in addition to your other responsibilities of service, you have been seeking information to decide on how to respond to this crisis. Below is the link to an urgent call for expressions of interest to partner in providing services to the children. In order for us to disseminate information and act expeditiously, we need your responses as outlined in the document. Additionally, I have also included the call that was sent out to both ELCA and LCMS congregations, asking for their participation in helping these children and families.

We look forward to your responses and hope that you will be able to partner with us as we continue to extend welcome to the children and families that need us.

Yours in partnership,
Linda Hartke
President and CEO | LHartke@lirs.org | 410-230-2762

Raise awareness by joining the LIRS #ActofLove Campaign to urge lawmakers to respond with compassion and courage to the UAC humanitarian crisis.

Background: The Need for a Community-Based Response to Assist Migrant Families Seeking Refuge

Congregational Support to Help Migrant Families

UPDATE: July 8, 2014


Children and families are leaving Central America to seek shelter in the United States at an unprecedented rate. Over 50,000 children have crossed the border since October and that number is expected to rise to 90,000 by the end of September, according to the Obama administration. This is a humanitarian crisis, that the federal government systems currently in place were not designed to handle. For more background information regarding the UAC crisis, scroll down to the "Additional Background Information" section of this page.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is working diligently to address the crisis and has provided information regarding the best ways for Lutheran social services organizations to get involved and contact information for specific LIRS staff personnel. You can find this information below.

How Can Your Organization Be Involved

  • To protect these children, your organization can:
  • Deploy your bilingual staff to new residential shelters in need of case workers, licensed clinicians, immigration lawyers, and medical personnel(LIRS Contact: Kristine Poplawski, KPoplawski@LIRS.org);
  • Recruit and refer interested foster parents to provide homes for migrant and refugee children (FosterParentInfo@LIRS.org);
  • Respond to the need for physical facilities to be used as reception centers and shelters for children.(Contact Kristine Poplawski, KPoplawski@LIRS.org.)The Office of Refugee Resettlement has released a request for proposal - the information for this granted is listed here below and a full RFP is available at grants.gov.


Residential Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children

Department of Health and Human Services

Administration for Children and Families - ORR

Because of legal restrictions in place, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Office of Refugee Settlement (ORR) cannot accept volunteers and donations directly, but LIRS can connect you with local partners who can. Please contact Kristine Poplawski, KPoplawski@LIRS.org, if you would like to contribute in that way.

To care for migrant families, LIRS is seeking local partners and national funding to mobilize a compassionate response, and will invest in community-based housing for families as an alternative to immigration detention. LIRS is already working in seven communities to pilot this option to vulnerable individuals who should not be detained. In Arizona, Austin/San Antonio, Boston, Chicago, the New York Metro area, Seattle, and the Twin Cities, LIRS has built coalitions of local service partners that provide legal services, case management, and housing. These pilot locations are showing the power of the local community to offer the care and protections newcomers need to thrive. Please contact Julia Coffin, JCoffin@LIRS.org, if you are interested in learning more. Partners should consider their ability to:

Provide a short-term shelter in vacant community space to welcome and receive newly arrived families;

Open a reception home to provide long-term communal housing and a safe place for vulnerable families to gain stability as they go through their legal case-generally six months or longer;

Provide case management services to support families as they connect with relatives in the United States and/or seek needed services in the community.

  • Raise awareness by joining the LIRS #ActofLove Campaign.
  • The laws and actions of the federal government will have a huge impact on these children and families, and LIRS is also leading a campaign-the Act of Love Campaign--to urge lawmakers to respond with compassion and courage.
  • Visit http://lirs.org/actoflove/ and sign a petition;
  • Spread the word to your spheres of influence across social media; and,
  • Send a note of encouragement to an unaccompanied child. Contact: Chelsea Allison at CAllison@LIRS.org.

Additional Background Information

  • Children and families are leaving Central America at staggering rates to seek safety in the United States. Deprivation, violence by organized criminal actors, and governments unable to protect their people have sent children and families fleeing El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. They travel by foot over the border, or as stowaways on freight trains. Sometimes they are victims of human trafficking, sometimes they must pay to get to safety, and sometimes they just travel alone.
  • This is a humanitarian crisis. Over 50,000 children have crossed the border since October - up from fewer than 8,000 in all of 2011. Children, some as young as three, have taken the extraordinary risk of coming to the United States because they cannot stay in their homes. Now, more and more families are making the same dangerous journey as mothers and children seek refuge in America. Many of these migrant children that have dominated news coverage are required by law to receive a specific level of care due to their specific vulnerability as children. These laws protect the welfare of children at risk for human trafficking and exploitation, but it imposes restrictions on the way communities, volunteers, and service organizations can be involved.
  • The federal government systems in place were not designed to protect and care for this many children. The government agencies in charge of caring for these children were designed to care for fewer than 10,000 children each year. Because the number of children has increased so dramatically, the U.S. government has struggled to place them in appropriate care and has opened large shelters in military facilities-providing 3,000 beds in four shelters. There is also a facility in Nogales, Arizona that is operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and was established to expedite the processing of these children. On June 30th, President Obama announced his intention to take administrative actions to address current immigration policies. The President also announced that additional resources would be moved to the borders from the country's interior to assist with the crisis and protect the borders.
  • The increase in families is just beginning and the trend points to an escalating crisis. Rather than the protection and safety they seek, these families experience the trauma of detention. Every day, the Department of Homeland Security detains 34,000 immigrants. Refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of torture, victims of human trafficking and violent crimes are among those incarcerated. This massive detention system comes at an enormous cost to taxpayers, families, immigrants and communities throughout the country. The federal government has announced their plans to open family detention facilities that would incarcerate mothers and children who are facing deportation. Families that have fled their homes and risked their lives to find refuge will be imprisoned in deeply destructive settings

Source: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (lirs.org)