U.S. ends program for Central American
minors fleeing violence
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[August 17, 2017]
By Mica Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of
Homeland Security terminated a program on Wednesday that allowed minors
fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to settle in the
United States, ending travel hopes for more than 2,700 children awaiting
In a notice published in the Federal Register that goes into effect Aug.
16, the government said it was ending the practice of granting parole
under the Central American Minors (CAM) Program, which was offered to
children even if they had been denied refugee status.
The program started at the end of 2014 under the administration of
former President Barack Obama as a response to tens of thousands of
unaccompanied minors and families from Central America who arrived at
the U.S.-Mexico border seeking entry into the United States.
An executive order on border security signed by U.S. President Donald
Trump days after he took office in January triggered a review of the
program, putting on hold applications of more than 2,700 children who
had been conditionally approved for entry into the United States. Now
those applications will be canceled. The bulk of the children approved
for the program were from El Salvador.
Immigration advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said that
cancelling the program would lead to more children to try to find other
means to enter the United States.
"These children have been repeatedly told by the U.S. government,
including the Trump Administration, not to migrate to the United States
due to safety concerns," the organization said in a statement. "Now this
Administration is cutting off the only authorized channel and leaving
children no choice but to make the perilous journey to the United
The program allowed children under 21 years old with parents lawfully
living in the United States to apply for a refugee resettlement
interview before making the journey to the United States.
As of August 4, more than 1,500 children and eligible family members had
arrived in the United States as refugees under the CAM program,
according to the State Department.
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U.S. Department of Homeland Security emblem is pictured in
Arlington, Virginia September 24, 2010. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang
Children who did not qualify for refugee status and had no other
means of reuniting with their parents in the United States could
also apply for entry under the program.
They would be approved for parole for two years, allowing them to
travel and stay in the United States and apply for work permits.
Since its inception, more than 1,400 children were granted parole
and allowed to travel to the United States. They included 1,110 from
El Salvador, 324 from Honduras and 31 from Guatemala, according to a
spokesman from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Now, they will have to re-apply for parole once their two-year term
expires but will only be able to have it renewed if they can
demonstrate "an urgent humanitarian or a significant public benefit
reason" for them to stay, the federal register said. Parole
decisions would be determined on a case-by-case basis.
More than 13,000 people have applied for the program since it began,
the State Department said. Around 1 percent of applicants were
denied both for refugee status and parole, according to the USCIS
The refugee portion of the program will not be affected by
Wednesday's termination and children stranded abroad can still apply
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Additional reporting by Nelson
Renteria in San Salvador; Editing by Marcy Nicholson)
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