CAIR Coalition is deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of two unaccompanied children, both from Honduras, while under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). This is a tragic loss, and our hearts go out to their families and communities.
Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, a 17-year-old unaccompanied youth, died last week while housed at a shelter in Florida, though the cause of his death has yet to be determined. After Ángel’s death was reported, it was discovered that a 4-year-old housed in Michigan, died in March after being hospitalized for cardiac arrest. The child, whose death has not been previously reported, was “medically fragile,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The ORR, which is a division of HHS, is responsible for detaining and caring for migrant children who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without legal guardians. Under federal law, border officials are required to transfer unaccompanied children to ORR within 72 hours. The ORR maintains custody of unaccompanied children in shelters and facilities until they turn 18 or are reunified with a sponsor in the U.S. In some cases, they are transferred to an immigration detention facility for adults once they turn 18 if they are not released to a sponsor.
Most unaccompanied children are trauma survivors, having faced extreme hardships and unimaginable challenges at a young age. After making the long journey from their country, they are detained at the border and then transferred to a facility. Even short periods of detention can cause psychological trauma and long-term physical and mental health risks for children.
All children deserve to be safe and cared for. CAIR Coalition remains committed to advocating for the protection and well-being of immigrant children and their families.