For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Carolina Gamero

David Castillo

Hispanic Federation Announces Partnership with UNICEF USA to Support Children and Families at U.S.-Mexico Border

Legal assistance, mental health services and capacity building to curb dangerous delays along the border, offer alternatives to detention, and uphold human rights of migrant children and families

New York — Today Hispanic Federation (HF) announced the launch of the Migrant Services Partnership, alongside UNICEF USA, to provide counseling, mental health and legal services at the border, following a significant increase in arrivals of children fleeing poverty, violence, instability, and deteriorating economic conditions in Central America and Mexico.

Amid rapidly changing U.S. immigration policies, the new partnership between the Hispanic Federation and UNICEF USA - two champions for children and immigrant communities - aims to provide psychosocial support across 12 shelters, as well as key services to ensure the safety, wellbeing, and human dignity of migrant children and families. Together, both organizations will also advocate for policies in the United States that ensure the protection and rights of every migrant child.

“Detention facilities and family separations cut away at the core American value of human dignity for all. Hispanic Federation will use every tool available to fight for families to be united, expand access to urgently needed legal services, and ensure safe conditions as they seek asylum. No child should have to worry about representing themselves in immigration court or being torn away from their family in the process.” said Frankie Miranda, President of the Hispanic Federation.

“Together, we can transform the landscape of care and protection for migrant children on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Half of migrant children are traveling without a parent or adult, and we are working to ensure that they have comprehensive support to address trauma and concerns about family separation. Every child should have access to a positive environment as they navigate the immigration system, as well as the psychosocial support and resources they need to reach their full potential.” said Michael J. Nyenhuis, President & CEO of UNICEF USA.

Since the beginning of 2021, more than 65,000 migrant children and teenagers have arrived alone on the southern border. While the number of migrants has been rising over the last few years, the record springtime surge of migrants signaled an urgent need for comprehensive support on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The demographics of migrants has also changed from largely single, adult men seeking economic opportunity, to recent flows including families with young children as well as unaccompanied minors.

HF and UNICEF USA believe that every young person and every child has the right to a warm and welcoming home that provides them with the care they need to thrive. To address the urgent need for more support at the border, this partnership will provide:

  • Comprehensive Social Support for Children and Families
  • Access To Legal Services
  • Capacity-Building for Local Nonprofits and Public Education Campaigns

Comprehensive Social Support for Children and Families

Migrant children often experience high levels of anxiety and stress from the dangerous migration journey fleeing violence and poverty in home countries. The partnership will provide psychosocial counseling and facilitate social support activities to help children heal from trauma, develop meaningful interactions in a positive environment, and rebuild their emotional and psychosocial resilience. It will also provide case management services, including identification, registration, and providing care options to address the needs of at least 6,000 children.

Together, these organizations will work to strengthen the alternatives available to detention including implementing a foster care program for migrant children in Mexico and supporting family- and community-based care options that currently exist along the migration route, such as shelters and foster care facilities.

Access to Legal Services

Research shows that when migrants have legal representation, their chances of obtaining relief can increase by 500%. Through this partnership, legal services will be expanded to asylum seekers at the border. About 5,000 migrants will be reached through a combination of application assistance, legal defense, workshops that educate migrants on their rights, as well as screenings and outreach.

The partnership will expand the reach of legal services for migrants seeking asylum in local shelters in Tijuana, Sonora, Ciudad Juárez, and Matamoros. It also aims to increase the use of technology for virtual legal assistance to communicate with migrants held in detention facilities in San Diego, El Paso, McAllen and Brownsville.

Building Capacity with Partners and Public Education Campaigns

HF and UNICEF USA will work with community-based organizations with a regional presence in four southern border states (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) to deliver resources and build infrastructure to serve the high number of migrants they receive.

They will also work with organizations to address connectivity and technology limitations in shelters in Mexico, including establishing four computer labs equipped with internet, laptops and privacy to securely communicate with legal representations. From designating internet hotspots and computer labs in shelters in Mexico, to distributing mobile devices for secure communication, community-based organizations can close gaps in information that set back migrants.

The partnership could also help improve conditions for migrant children and families following previous policies like the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy which created dangerous and indefinite delays, particularly impacting Central American migrants applying for asylum. The “Remain in Mexico” policy forced over 70,000 asylum-seekers to wait out their asylum process in Mexico, often leading migrants to stay in unsafe housing and facing dangerous conditions along the Northern Mexico border.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the strain on assistance centers, increasing the number of unaccompanied migrating children and families. Detention facilities, shown to be detrimental to children’s wellbeing, also pose an added risk to children and families. However, the partnership’s core areas can drive powerful change for migrant children and families by providing them with legal, mental health, case management, and psychosocial counseling services.

The partnership will be the catalyst for a positive, holistic impact on the livelihood and wellbeing of migrant families and their children by ensuring access to the services they need to thrive. The partnership welcomes charitable giving to extend the reach of services and improve the lives of migrant children and families. For more information on the partnership and to support through an in-kind donation, visit: