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Carlos Holguín and Kavita Kapur

The ‘surge’ of Central American families and children arriving at the US southern border in the summer of 2014 prompted the United States to adopt a policy of detaining Central American families indefinitely in order to deter other youth and families fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (known collectively as the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA)) from seeking refuge in the United States. This policy disproportionately affects youth who are particularly vulnerable to the endemic gang violence that plagues NTCA countries. In light of the limitations on challenging this policy in US courts, this chapter explores the role of the inter-American system in protecting the human rights of migrant children and youth. In this chapter, we summarize the inter-American Treaties and Conventions we think speak most forcefully to governments that would deny Central American children and youth the right to refuge or other international protection. We then discuss the jurisdiction and procedures of the institutions charged with promoting adherence to the inter-American human rights framework. Finally, we describe recent examples of advocacy within the inter-American system we hope will illustrate the potential and limitations of this system as a tool to advocate for adolescentes en el camino (migrant adolescents).