The Department of Homeland Security has shut down an Obama-era program that allowed minors fleeing from violence in three Central American countries to join their parents in the US.
The DHS terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) Parole Program according to a Federal Register noticepublished Wednesday. The decision went into effect the same day.
The CAM program provided temporary humanitarian parole to minors from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who were denied refugee status.
“[US Citizenship and Immigration Services] will no longer consider or authorize parole under the CAM Parole Program. In addition, USCIS will notify individuals who have been conditionally approved for parole under this program and who have not yet traveled that the program has been terminated and their conditional approval for parole has been rescinded,”Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke wrote.
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The CAM program was created under the administration of former President Barack Obama in response to tens of thousands of minors fleeing to the US from the strife-torn South American countries.
Under the program, unmarried minors under the age of 21 with at least one parent legally living in the US were automatically considered for parole to live in the US if they did not qualify for refugee protection.
The US Embassy in Honduras claims the program provided minors with “a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.”
Since the program began in 2014, a total of 1,465 minors have been granted parole in the US, according to CNN. Another 2,714 were approved for parole under the program, but will not be able to come to the US under the new rules.
In January, president Donald Trump signed an executive order on border security that triggered a review of the program and put all pending applications on hold. Trump’s executive order requires all undocumented immigrants to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis before being granted parole.
The DHS said that the new policy will not affect those who qualify for refugee status. Minors are still able to seek refugee status, but those who are denied will no longer have the parole option available to them. The notice states that those individuals can still apply for parole consideration outside the program.
In the notice, the DHS clearly differentiates those with refugee status and those with parole status.
“Unlike refugee status, parole does not lead to any immigration status. Parole also does not constitute an admission to the United States,” DHS said. “Once an individual is paroled into the United States, the parole allows the individual to stay temporarily in the United States and to apply for employment authorization. The alien may stay in the United States unless and until the parole is terminated.”
Without the CAM program, parents of minors fleeing from Central America will only be allowed to apply through the general parole application offered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
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Immigration advocacy group, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), said by canceling the program, the US is “cutting off the only authorized channel and leaving children no choice but to make the perilous journey to the United States.”
“The US government has already acknowledged that these children are in grave danger in their home country. Now this administration is abandoning these children to near certain harm and potentially death. This is absolutely unacceptable,”KIND said in a statement.