CLINIC created a web form where practitioners can report instances in which the government attempts to terminate the “unaccompanied child” status of children previously designated as UACs.
The impetus for this web tracking tool is the new administration’s plans to take a different and more restrictive approach to UAC classification procedures. In an executive order issued on Jan. 25, 2017, President Trump instructed the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to “take appropriate action” to ensure the proper processing of UACs. DHS Secretary John Kelly issued a Feb. 20, 2017 memorandum implementing the executive order, which says many children who have been designated as unaccompanied actually have a parent in the United States. It added that once these children are released to the parent, they may no longer fall within the definition of UAC.
The memorandum calls for government agencies to issue “uniform written guidance” and conduct training including “standardized review procedures” to confirm that children initially designated as UACs “continue to fall within the statutory definition when being considered for the legal protections afforded to such children as they go through the removal process.”
No “uniform written guidance” has been issued, but we we expect it is in the works. Practitioners in some jurisdictions have already reported instances in which DHS has attempted to terminate a child’s UAC designation. Without the UAC designation, children lose important federal law protections intended to ensure that vulnerable children are not returned to persecution or trafficking.
To assist practitioners in representing children facing these issues, CLINIC is developing a practice advisory on combatting government attempts to terminate UAC status. CLINIC is collaborating with other partners to monitor and consider advocacy and litigation strategies to assist such children.
If you or your organization have experienced this, or if it happens to you in the coming weeks, please fill out the web form. The web form is available at www.cliniclegal.org/tracking-uac-de-designations.