Potential Roles for Philanthropy with Unaccompanied Minors Crisis

A new report has been released outlining potential grantmaking opportunities to address the growing crisis of unaccompanied immigrant children. Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees published the report to highlight the immediate and long-term concerns regarding unaccompanied minors. The organization, established in 1990, seeks to increase philanthropic support for immigrant populations by educating funders on the complex issues surrounding immigration. The report is targeted to foundations who support work in the areas of immigration and refugees, health and human services, and children, youth and families. The organization has identified key funding areas including legal representation and related legal resources, a full range of direct services, and the monitoring of all detention facilities to ensure that basic needs are met and legal rights are protected. Below is an outline of the arenas that the report suggests are ripe for philanthropic involvement:

Legal Services

  • Recruit, train, support, and build a robust pool of pro bono attorneys.
  • Support the federal pilot program, Justice AmeriCorps, which appoints counsel (who are part of a national service program) to unaccompanied minors.
  • Create emergency legal teams to provide legal information and representation to children held in federal institutions.
  • Ensure the availability of interpreters.
  • Expand training for migration judges and asylum officers deciding unaccompanied immigrant children’s cases.

Direct Services

  • Support services at the border including basic needs (food, shelter, clothing, medical care), human rights monitoring at the border and detention facilities, wrap-around services coordinated by a case worker or advocate.
  • When immigrant children are in communities, create interagency networks of schools, social services, and legal services designed to meet their services needs.


  • Support a media campaign to educate the public on the issue of child migration, drivers of migration, and policy choices consistent with humanitarian and U.S. ideals.
  • Fund programs that educate the media on issues of unaccompanied immigrant children, asylum and refugee status, trafficking.

Policy Reform

  • Systemic restructuring of the immigration legal process, particularly advocacy to appoint counsel and child advocates to unaccompanied immigrant children.
  • Ensure asylum regulations provide greater protection for children fleeing gangs and comport with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees‘ guidance and directives.
  • Alternatives to detention for all immigrants who pose no threat to public safety or national security, and especially for children and families.


  • Outcomes for children released to family, including ability to obtain social services, education, legal counsel, child advocates, etc.
  • Outcomes for repatriated children, including evaluating ability to reunite with family members, return to school, find work, and avoid persecution.
  • Impact of arriving children on receiving communities in the United States.
  • Development projects in Mexico and Central America that could alleviate conditions that drive migration.

To read the full report, click here.

Judith Fenlon is the editor of the Money and Business section of The Imprint. 

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