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LIRS Testifies at Senate Hearing on Safety of Unaccompanied Migrant Children | LIRS

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LIRS Staff

June 14, 2023

Thumbnail for a video entitled 'LIRS Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: Ensuring the Safety & Well-Being of Unaccompanied Children'

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Ensuring the Safety and Well-being of Unaccompanied Children,” Lorie Davidson, Vice President of Children and Family Services at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, delivered expert testimony emphasizing the need for improved protections, additional resources, and legal representation to ensure the best interests of this particularly vulnerable population.

For 40 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has worked alongside the government and with a national network of community-based partners to provide appropriate services for unaccompanied children, identify unique vulnerabilities to exploitation, and to protect their best interests.

Unaccompanied children are among the most vulnerable populations, and when they arrive in the U.S, they frequently have limited support and significant difficulty accessing services in their communities as a result of language and cultural barriers, and unfamiliarity with U.S laws designed to protect children.

Lorie Davidson, Vice President of Children and Family Services at LIRS

In her opening statement, Davidson also highlighted the U.S. government’s history of easing sponsor vetting requirements during periods of influx, notably in 2014, 2018 and 2021, leading to cases of exploitation.

“Rolling back background checks in times of influx cannot continue to be used as the solution to move children out of influx care facilities quickly,” said Davidson. “ORR must consistently and appropriately vet sponsors based on their relationship to the child 100% of the time.”

Finally, Davidson stressed the need for policy solutions to safeguard the best interests of children, including more robust protections, additional resources for post-release services, and access to legal representation.

“To ensure the safety and well-being of unaccompanied children in our community, Congress must focus on improving protections and ensuring adequate resources to provide all in-person post-release services immediately following release, and access to ongoing legal representation to safeguard against labor and other types of exploitation,” Davidson concluded.

Today’s hearing comes in the wake of the end of Title 42’s specious use for immigration enforcement, which LIRS has previously highlighted to Congress as greatly increasing family separation and historic numbers of unaccompanied children’s arrival at the U.S. southern border.

Read Davidson’s full written testimony here.

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