top of page

Finding Ways to Help Unaccompanied Children Adapt and Thrive:

Northern Triangle Irregular Migration in Fairfax County, Virginia


Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (collectively known as the “Northern Triangle”) are origin countries for irregular migrants coming to California, Texas, Florida, Washington DC Metropolitan Area, and New York/New Jersey.  Children younger than 18 and without an accompanying parent or legal guardian are considered to be “Unaccompanied Children.”[1]   These minors are placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Homeland Security into U.S. communities while awaiting judication of their refugee status.  In compliance with state laws, these minors must enroll in public schools and through no fault of their own they, in many cases, need strong social and community support to adapt and thrive.[2]  The objective of the presentation prepared by a George Mason University GIS team is to map, to the extent possible, irregular migration and the placement of unaccompanied children in Fairfax County, Virginia, and provide a map of the social and financial support services that are available to these children and their families and to the public schools which they attend. The overall goal is to match schools and communities with resources available to help unaccompanied children thrive. 


[1] These children are in complex family situations and, in many cases, appear to have undergone psychological trauma prior to entering local public schools.  See

[2] The Office of Refugee Resettlement defines an unaccompanied child as a minor (less than 18 years of age) that is in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) without a parent or legal guardian.  Current U.S. law requires CBP to transfer custody of an unaccompanied child to the Office of Refugee Resettlement which then seeks to place the child with a parent or relative in the United States until the refugee appeal process can be completed.  See

Please click on the link above to download our presentation.  The presentation maps where Northern Triangle origin residents are in Fairfax County, Virginia.  It then maps the schools that are located in their communities.  Finally, the analysis maps the schools in those communities that have greater than a 40 percent Hispanic enrollment.  We believe these are the schools where we are most likely to find Unaccompanied Children.  

bottom of page