unaccompanied migrant children (UMC)Last updated
Unaccompanied migrant children are individuals under the age of 18 who have been separated from or arrived at the US border without their parents or legal guardians; in the context of migration, they are sometimes known as UMC or, in legal terminology, “unaccompanied alien children” (UAC), though overuse of initialisms to refer to groups of people can feel dehumanizing. “Unaccompanied children” or “unaccompanied migrant children” are more neutral terms than “unaccompanied alien children,” which risks othering the children in question.
Unaccompanied children are classified as such when they enter the United States. Once apprehended, they are transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is mandated to provide protective procedures for the children, given the high risk of their exploitation and trafficking.
Nonetheless, unaccompanied children lack a number of protections, including the right to court-appointed counsel and assistance in navigating a complex court and detention system, often leading to lengthy detention stays that may result in deportation.
- 6 US Code § 279 – Children’s affairs (Cornell Law School)
- Unaccompanied Immigrant Children (National Immigrant Justice Center)
- The growing number of children in custody on the US-Mexico border, explained (Vox)
“Unaccompanied migrant children” are migrant children who arrive at the US border without a parent or legal guardian. “Unaccompanied children” or “unaccompanied migrant children” are more neutral terms than “unaccompanied alien children,” which risks othering the children in question.