For more than 100 years, Save the Children has protected the world’s children from harm and ensured their rights are upheld. Today, through cross-border collaboration, we are supporting migrant children and families throughout the entire path of migration.

Through Save the Children’s political advocacy arm – Save the Children Action Network – we are building bipartisan support for migrant children and families in Washington, advocating for policies that ensure they are treated safely and humanely, and with dignity and respect.

How Is Save the Children Helping Children at the U.S. Southern Border?

Save the Children does not choose sides – we choose children and will always work to uphold and protect their rights in any crisis or circumstance. 

Since May 2019, our programs along the U.S.-Mexico border have directly served more than than 179,000 people, including 95,000 children.

4 Things to Know About Children in Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Egregious policies of the previous administration have specifically targeted children and families seeking refuge. We witnessed harmful federal government actions, such as separating children from their families, in order to frighten and deter fellow migrants and asylum seekers. Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Seeking asylum is not a crime.

A young boy looks over his father's shoulder.

Every child has a right to safety, protection and a future, regardless of who they are or where they’re from. Our nation has long served as a safe harbor for persecuted people, but the past years have eroded that proud legacy. 

The new administration and Congress have the opportunity to rebuild a stronger, child-centric asylum and immigration system in America. 

President Biden has already started undoing some of the harmful policies of the past administration. For example, he ended the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) – more commonly known as the “remain in Mexico” policy – which forced thousands of asylum-seekers to remain in often-dangerous conditions in Mexico until their asylum claims were heard.

President Biden has also welcomed unaccompanied children into the U.S. to seek asylum, instead of sending them back to Mexico or their countries of origin.  
⁠⁠These are important steps in ensuring immigrant children are treated legally and humanely. ⁠

Forcibly separating children from their families is a cruel and inhuman policy.

A father and son stand with their backs to the camera.

The cruel act of separation can cause severe negative social and emotional consequences for the children and their families in the days, months and years ahead. Our global evidence shows that children living in institutions away from their families are highly vulnerable to emotional, physical and psychological abuse, which can lead to lasting developmental problems, injuries and trauma.

President Biden's formation of a task force to reunify the hundreds of asylum-seeking children forcibly separated from their families will begin to repair the harm and pave the way for a reimagined system incapable of implementing a family separation policy in the future. 

U.S. border camps are no place for a child.

A mother watches her child sleep on a cot.

As the number of unaccompanied children being taken into border authority custody after crossing the southern border continues to grow, the system is being overwhelmed. 

Facilities are overcrowded, with children forced to sleep on cold floors and without access to hygiene and basic support services, all of which makes them dangerous for children

Save the Children has long advocated against the use of large influx facilities because we know they’re no suitable place for children. As long as the administration continues to use these facilities, the conditions must be drastically improved. Children must be protected and treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion. 

Every child has a right to safety, protection and a future.

A young girl in a pink shirt looks at the camera.

Children should not have to experience the trauma that comes from daily threats, a terrifying journey, forcefully being removed from their parents or being forced to sleep on cold floors and without access to hygiene and basic support services. 

Save the Children's current work at the U.S.-Mexico Border features programs to protect children and address their immediate needs, resource support and advocacy. 

Through partners, Save the Children is helping deliver immediate humanitarian relief to newly arrived children and families on both sides of the border. 

And, Save the Children Action Network – together with its 375,000 grassroots volunteers nationwide – is advocating on behalf of migrant children and families, building bipartisan support to transform the U.S. immigration and asylum-system so that children and families are treated with legally and humanely, with dignity and respect.

A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador. A 14-year old girl stands with her arms cross while looking out over a grassy field in El Salvador.

A Timeline of the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis

2013 - 2014

Between October 2013 and September 2014, over 68,500 unaccompanied children from Central America cross into the United States seeking refuge from unimaginable violence, brutal gangs, crushing poverty and other challenges in their home countries. Another 66,000 families — primarily mothers and their children — also arrive at the border after leaving their communities for these same reasons.

At the peak of the exodus in the spring and summer of 2014, children and families overwhelm the capacity of federal agencies charged with processing and providing minimal services for people entering the U.S. across the border.

Save the Children mobilizes a response to address the physical and emotional needs of immigrant children and their mothers.


In the months leading to April 2018, the U.S. government increases restrictions on immigration, with children bearing a significant burden of the policy changes. 

In April, the administration announces a new “zero-tolerance” policy toward border crossings that instituted criminal proceedings for every adult caught crossing the border illegally. 

The policy forcibly separates more than 2,300 children and their families, causing great trauma and harm. Very young children and adolescents are held in prison-like detention for extended periods with little to no attention to their emotional and physical well-being. Many parents, often mothers traveling with children, are also held in indefinite detention.

As a global leader in supporting family reunifications, Save the Children works to help parents locate and safely reunite with their children, and from there, supports them in getting access to essential services they need to re-establish themselves.


In late 2018, people from Honduras and Guatemala, intent on escaping violence and entrenched poverty, join caravans in the hope of reaching the Mexico-U.S. border. 

By mid-year, legislation is proposed for children who arrive at the southern border to be held in federal custody for up to 100 days. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) CEO Mark Shriver expresses his strong opposition, calling the legislation "a grave violation of children’s rights."

In June 2019, Save the Children Trustee and actress Jennifer Garner visits Save the Children’s newly opened programs in New Mexico, which are helping migrant children and families once they have been released from U.S. government detention centers.

By the end of June, Save the Children and SCAN generate more than 250,000 letters to the Administration and members of Congress, urging action to protect vulnerable children.


Nearly two years on, an estimated 70,000 Central American children and adults are currently “waiting” in border cities like Ciudad Juarez, Nogales and Matamoros, places rife with violence and exploitation that target this population.

Complete border closures in response to COVID-19 further exacerbated the situation so that children and families are immediately turned away without opportunities to make their asylum claims under due process. 

March 2020 marks nearly 200,000 people having been “expelled” from the U.S. southern border – including 8,800 unaccompanied children. 

In November 2020, the expulsion of unaccompanied children is finally stopped by the courts.


Save the Children urgently calls on the new Biden Administration and members of Congress, regardless of political affiliation, to come together around a shared oath for kids at home and across the world. This includes developing and acting on plans to humanely protect families seeking help on the U.S. southern border.

The number of unaccompanied children taken into border authority custody after crossing the southern border grows dramatically by the day – nearly 15,000 in January and February alone. Thousands of children are being held in short-term law enforcement facilities longer than the 72 hours allowed by law. 

In May, the Biden administration announces a crucial step in the right direction – that it will begin to reunite families separated under the prior administration. 

In June, reports surface that migrant children are being housed in inhumane conditions in a government-run shelter in El Paso, Texas.


What can I do to help children at the U.S.-Mexico Border?

As Save the Children is helping meet the urgent needs of children and families, your donation to the U.S. Border Crisis Children's Relief fund can support our work at the U.S.-Mexico Border. 


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