The US federal government has created a separate regime for the detention of migrant children who are apprehended at the border, at a point of entry, inside the US during an ICE raid or from a police encounter. This is called the Unaccompanied Alien
Children (UAC) Program.
The operation of the UAC program is defined by three primary policies: The Flores Settlement of 1997, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the TVPRA of 2008. Taken togther, these form a framework that ensures the following:
Between 2003 and 2020, over 340,000 children have been detained in UAC facilities. In 2020, there were over 160 facilities scattered all over the country, sometimes located in residential neighborhoods. These are secretuve facilities hideen in plain sight. Over 14,000 children are locked up on any given day.
Between 2003-2020, the Unaccompanied Alien Children program massed over $5 billion in grants from the federal government to operate. It’s a lucrative business and has been increasing over the years, all the whle justified as service prosivion, shelter and care.
The UAC facilities are distinct from "influx facilities" that are opened as temporary sites when the number of child detentions soars. Often referred to as detention camps, these massive influx facilities are familiar to us from infamous media reports. While these are set up as temporary sites, the UAC "Residential Shelters" are long-term or permanent facilities. They have been operating since 2002-2003 largely with no public scruitiny.
Official designation for undocumented children who are apprehended without an adult who has custody. This can mean the child was alone, was with an adult who could not prove custody, was with a family member suspected of being a minor, or was separated from family during law enforcement operation.
Shelter or Residential Shelter
Official name of UAC detention facility.
Children detained as UACs are referref to as Program Participants.
Service Provision / Care
All procedures while in detention facilities are called services. The companies that operate UAC facilities are social servie agencies, who justify their massive budgets though round-the-clock surveillance and documentation of all "services" they provide.
To regain custody of their children, families are forced to cooperate with a federal investigation. This puts families at risk, as all information is shared with ICE and at times leads to follow-up prosecution. This form of blackmail is called Family Reunification.
Above is a tentative googlemap of UAC facilities created by activists from the Little Village Solidarity Network in January 2020, based on internal documents leaked by Anonymous. This is the most recently available data we have access to; by all accounts, this map is no longer accurate, as several facilities have since closed, new ones have opened and several of these facilities are now housing Unaccompanied Refugee Children.
In 2018 and 2019, ProPublica also attempted to map the UAC facilities, based on documents obtained through FOIA requests as well as information provided by employee whistleblowers. Please note that this media outlet continues to use the terminology of shelter" and "care" when referring to the detention of migrant children, despite being urged by activists to stop repeating and proliferating the misleading teminology.