Central American Minors Program
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The Central American Minors Program was an American immigration policy established by the Obama administration on November 2014. The program allowed lawfully present parents in the United States the opportunity to request a refugee or parole status for their children residing in the Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The combination of being a transshipment point and the increase of gang violence in the Northern Triangle caused its region's insecurity. Among other countries in Central America, the Northern Triangle's gang violence is ranked among the worst in the world.
Due to an influx of unaccompanied minors entering the United States from Central America and being victims of violent crimes during the journey, the Obama administration initiated programs that partnered with Central American governments to combat the violence that influences minors to migrate to the United States. However, the violence in the Northern Triangle only escalated in 2015, prompting the Obama administration to expand The Central American Minors Program in 2016.
The parole portion of the Central American Minors Program was terminated in August 2017, and new applications for the refugee portion of the program were no longer accepted as of November 9, 2017.
President Obama’s attempt in trying to mitigate the increase of Central American minors began in the summer of 2014 when he held a meeting with the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In his remarks, Obama expressed that all of the countries have a “shared responsibility” when it comes to dealing with the violence in Central American countries and the impact it can have on children. The concept of “shared responsibility” was also expressed by Asylum and International Operations Associate Director Joseph Langlois after the Central American Minors Program was established with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He expressed that the both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department have a role in ensuring the success of the program.
The Central American Minors Program was part of the larger United States Refugee Admissions Program of 2014. Within this program, the role of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was established in how individual interviews would be conducted with the people seeking refugee status, as well as the interviews with the applicant’s family to determine credibility. Although Vice President Joseph Biden announced the program on November 12, 2014, applications were not accepted until December 2014. Due to the growth of violence in the countries of the Northern Triangle, the Obama Administration announced an expansion of the program with purpose of broadening the people eligible to apply for refugee or parole status. Trump's new policy does not revoke refugee status.
After Vice President Biden’s announcement of the program, officials began training protocols on how to assess whether the minor in question would be eligible for refugee status or parole status. The application process began in December 2014, with the largest application pool coming from El Salvador. The program did not grant undocumented parents the opportunity to apply. To qualify for the program, parents in the United States had to be lawfully present in order to request a refugee resettlement for their unmarried children in their native country. There was no filing fee for the application, however depending on the country in which the minor resided, medical exams and approved travel could range from $1,000 to 1,500. Although the program was enacted in December 2014, applications were being accepted on January 28, 2016. There were 6,900 applications.
The most important eligibility requirement when applying was that the parent had to be must be legally present in the United States. Furthermore, the child had to be from the El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, unmarried, and under 21 years of age. Depending on the outcome of the application process, a child could be granted refugee status, parole status, or denied completely. In order to determine the legitimacy of the applicant's’ relationship, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services interviewed all family members, background screenings, and biographic and biometric security checks. If granted refugee status, medical exams were conducted and minor or child in question began their cultural orientation of the United States, whereas the home of the parent(s) in the United States began to be assessed.
Unlike the refugee status, paroles do not grant a pathway to citizenship in the United States.
The expansion of the Central American Minors Program was introduced in November 2016 with the purpose of expanding the people who would be eligible for refugee/parole status from the Northern Triangle. Although the age restriction of 21 or less was still present, the lawfully present adult in the US seeking refugee status for a family member could be either a parent, sibling, or caregiver. The most notable aspect of the expansion was that the country of Costa Rica agreed to assist the United States in providing a safe haven to 200 refugees. The expansion was also a way of informing individuals in the United States that Obama’s attempt in sharing responsibility with the governments of the Northern Triangle had not been effective and that the violence in these countries had only gotten worse.
After Donald Trump became president, he moved to terminate the program. Trump's Executive Order 13769 halted the entry of refugees, including Central American Minors Program participants, for 120 days. The Trump administration formally terminated the program in August 2017. The parole portion of the program was terminated that month; new applications for the refugee portion of the program were no longer accepted on November 9, 2017. The program's termination resulted in 1,465 minors already in the U.S. being barred from renewing their status under the program, and blocked an additional 2,714 minors who had won conditional approval to enter the U.S. from being permitted to enter the country.
- "In-Country Refugee/Parole Program for Minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras With Parents Lawfully Present in the United States". 2009-2017.state.gov. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- "Central America's Violent Northern Triangle". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
- "Fact Sheet: Unaccompanied Children from Central America | whitehouse.gov". Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- US Department of State. Central American Minors (CAM) Program, U.S Department of State. Accessed April 21, 2017.
- "Central American Minors (CAM): Information for Parole Applicants". UCSIS. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
- "Remarks by President Obama After Meeting with Central American Presidents | whitehouse.gov". Obamawhitehouse.archives.gov. 2014-07-25. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- Langlois, Joseph. “Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program.” Department of Homeland Security. April 23, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2017.
- Langlois, Joseph. “Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program.” Department of Homeland Security. April 23, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2017
- "Obama Opens Doors To More Central American Refugees : The Two-Way". NPR. 2016-07-26. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- Kopan, Tal. "DHS ends program for Central American minors". CNN. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
- Langlois, Joseph. “Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program.”
- USCIS. Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program: Information for Conditionally Approved Applicants
- "Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service" (PDF).
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-19. Retrieved 2017-04-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Nina Lakhani. "Thousands of young Central Americans at risk as refugee ban halts key program". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
- David Nakamura, Trump administration ends Obama-era protection program for Central American minors, Washington Post (August 16, 2017).
- Mica, Rosenburg (2017-08-16). "U.S. ends program for Central American minors fleeing violence". Reuters. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
- Tal Kopan (August 16, 2017). "DHS ends program for Central American minors". CNN.
- In-Country Refugee/Parole Processing for Minors in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (Central American Minors – CAM), USCIS (last accessed January 24, 2019).