President Joe Biden is expanding a program that allows certain Central American children to seek entry into the US from their home country, officials announced Tuesday.
The Central American Minors program, which started during the Obama administration and was later scrapped by former president Donald Trump, allowed parents who were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — and who had legal status in the US — to apply for their children to also be allowed in.
After Biden restarted the program in March, it will now accept petitions to reunify families from parents and legal guardians, who are green card holders, those who have temporary protected status, and certain others who have pending applications for asylum or a U visa, which are given to immigrants who assist law enforcement. The families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras can seek resettlement for their children through the US Refugee Admissions Program.
“We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, as well as providing a legal alternative to irregular migration,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a joint statement with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States.”
The announcement comes weeks after the administration struggled to handle increased levels of unaccompanied children arriving at the US border this spring, leading to overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities. In recent weeks, the administration has relieved much of that overcrowding, bringing the number of unaccompanied children in custody down to just over 500.
The CAM program began in 2014 when the Obama administration faced a surge of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border. US officials wanted to provide them with an alternative and to dissuade those considering making the dangerous journey to the US–Mexico border.
While the Biden administration continues to turn back most immigrants at the southern border under a Trump-era public health order that cited the coronavirus pandemic, unaccompanied children have been the exception.