HHS Releases Complete, Unredacted Manual Governing Immigration Detention of Unaccompanied Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2023


HHS Releases Complete, Unredacted Manual Governing Immigration Detention of Unaccompanied Children

Brookline, MA – Yesterday, in response to a lawsuit filed by VECINA and the National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-ACF) released a complete, unredacted copy of the Unaccompanied Child Manual of Procedures (UC MAP). The UC MAP is the primary policy document on which HHS-ACF and its program office the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) rely to administer their programs for detained unaccompanied migrant children. The government has never before publicly released the UC MAP.

The manual contains information that is critically important to assist unaccompanied migrant children, their attorneys, their family members and other potential sponsors, and the general public in advocating on behalf of the children and for their release from immigration detention. It consists of six sections addressing the following topics: Placement in ORR Care Provider Facilities; Safe and Timely Release from ORR Care; Services; Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Sexual Abuse and Harassment; Program Management; and Resources and Services Available After Release from ORR Care.

The manual was released in litigation filed in federal district court in Massachusetts by VECINA and NILA under the Freedom of Information Act after HHS-ACF failed to respond to the organizations’ request for the manual. The parties are represented by NILA and Araujo & Fisher. Whether HHS-ACF will proactively disclose the manual on its website going forward is an outstanding issue in the case.

“The release of the UC MAP marks a huge victory for unaccompanied children, their families, and their advocates,” said Molly Chew, Project Director at VECINA. “It is critical to have transparency regarding the inner workings of the systems that detain unaccompanied children to ensure that the rights of these children are protected, and that any violations of policies and procedures can be addressed swiftly and directly.”

“We’re glad that the Administration for Children and Families has finally released these documents, which contain policy information that is crucial for unaccompanied migrant children, their family members and attorneys, and concerned members of the public,” said Aidan Langston, a public interest fellow at NILA. “We hope that, moving forward, ACF will agree to follow the law and publicly disclose any updates to these documents without the need for further litigation.” 

“The decision by HHS to release the manual of procedures is a critical step toward fuller transparency in our immigration system,” said Stefanie Fisher, of counsel at Araujo & Fisher. “Unaccompanied minors and their advocates arrive in our country vulnerable and uncertain, and opaque government practices make their situations even more difficult. These minors and their advocates deserve to understand how the government is administering these programs.”

A copy of all six sections of the UC MAP are available here.
A copy of the complaint is available here.

Media Contacts:

Aidan Langston, National Immigration Litigation Alliance, (617) 819-5818, aidan@immigrationlitigation.org

Molly Chew, VECINA, 512-277-3553, molly@vecina.org

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The National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA) is an immigrants’ rights nonprofit that strives to protect, enforce, and expand the rights of noncitizens and individuals perceived to be noncitizens by engaging in impact litigation and by building the capacity of immigration attorneys to litigate in federal court. Follow NILA at www.immigrationlitigation.org, on Twitter at @NILA_ImmLit, and on Facebook at NatImmLitAlliance.

VECINA is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower immigrant justice advocates by mentoring attorneys, educating communities, and mobilizing volunteers. Its primary activities revolve around mentoring and training pro bono teams to provide legal assistance to vulnerable immigrant communities. VECINA’s ReUnite Project assists family members and other loved ones in the release and reunification process of detained unaccompanied immigrant children.

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