Children under 18 years old crossing the border without parents or a legal guardian
If a minor (child under 18 years old) is crossing the border alone or with an adult who is not the minor's parent or legal guardian, the minor will likely be detained by the border officers. The minor will remain in custody under the protection of the authorities until they establish the minor's relationship to the person they were traveling with or with the person who is meeting the minor on the U.S. side.
If this happens, don't panic – the child will not be abused. This procedure is for the child's own protection. To reunite with the child, the child's closest relative in the U.S. should contact Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”):
The ORR hotline will not give out information about the child beyond that they are or are not in custody of ORR. If the child is in custody of ORR, they will send the caller’s contact information to the facility where the child is being held. Social workers will then reach out to the family to begin the reunification process. This process usually takes about two weeks to be reunited with parents and longer to be reunited with non-parents.
👆 Due to the problem of child trafficking, the customs border patrol is very strict about verifying relationship between the child and the person the child is traveling with. If you are not the child’s parent, be ready to show documents proving the relationship and giving you custody of the child, translated in English.
If your child has been detained, download and review these documents:
If you need help reuniting with the child, contact an immigration attorney. For a list of pro-bono attorneys, see: