Experiences of Undocumented Parents Reuniting with Children Who Entered the United States as Unaccompanied Minors

Maryam Rafieifar, Miriam Potocky, Hui Huang, Richard L. Beaulaurier, Sloan Bruan Lorenzini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In 2021, the United States saw an exponential influx of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S.–Mexico border. Upon apprehension at the border, unaccompanied children are placed in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) temporary shelter facilities. The ORR is responsible for locating, vetting, and releasing the children to their family, guardians, or a suitable sponsor. Undocumented parents seeking reunification may fear cross-examination and background checks. This study aimed to explore the experiences of undocumented families reunified with their children with the help of a community-based organization (CBO). A collective case study method was used to collect qualitative data from seven parents. Respondent parents expressed their rationale for allowing their children to cross the U.S.–Mexico border, their experience with the ORR, and the reasons they pursued community-based guidance. The results document the depth of trauma and difficulties parents of unaccompanied migrant children face with American service providers. It is recommended that immigration-related government agencies form relationships with culturally diverse organizations that are trusted by immigrant communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4496
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • community-based organization
  • family reunification
  • family separation
  • immigration
  • unaccompanied migrant children


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