Impact of COVID-19 on Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors and Families: Perspectives from Clinical Experts and Providers

Amanda Venta, Ashley Bautista, Luz M. Garcini, Michelle Silva, Alfonso Mercado, Oscar F. Rojas Perez, Norma Pimentel, Kathryn Hampton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The number of unaccompanied immigrant minors (UIMs) and families from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S. continues to rise. This growth, combined with restrictive government policies, led to crowded and suboptimal conditions in Customs and Border Patrol and non-governmental organization facilities. COVID-19 further taxed facilities and exacerbated uncertainty surrounding length of detention, basic human rights, and family reunification. The current project features testimonies from the authors who work as clinical experts and providers in Texas–a top destination for Central American immigrants. In collaboration with a deputy director of a not-for-profit human rights organization, volunteer psychologists, and the director of a humanitarian respite center, we describe challenges faced by administrators and clinical staff in addressing the mental health needs of immigrant children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary themes identified were anti-immigrant policies that occurred concurrently with COVID-19; difficulty implementing COVID-19 protocols alongside scarcity of supplies and volunteers; increased mental health needs among UIMs and immigrant families; and challenges in UIM placement upon release from custody. Strategies for addressing clinical challenges in the near- and long-term and opportunities for improvement in care systems to immigrant youth, including correcting anti-immigrant policies, addressing ongoing COVID-19 protocols and challenges, meeting mental and physical health needs, facilitating release and reunification for unaccompanied immigrant minors, and maximizing youth resilience through trauma-informed interventions, are presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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