Yesterday, August 15, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terminated temporary parole as an option for individuals and children under the Central America Minors (CAM) Program, after more than two years of the program’s implementation and expansion. The CAM Program was established to allow children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, who have a parent legally present in the United States, to apply for U.S. refugee status without leaving their home countries through DHS and the Department of State. Individuals and children who were denied refugee status under the CAM program were offered parole on a case-by-case basis to be reunited with their families.
The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) condemns this decision as yet another sign of the current administration’s intent to harm children and families from Central America by ending the only lifeline many had to escape from the worsening security situation in the region.
“With this decision, families who patiently followed the rules and whose children waited months in hiding to escape the violence in their homes are now left without any hope and will have to seek other means to find safety for their children, including making the dangerous journey to the United States or other countries in the region. This decision goes against the core humanitarian values of the United States to welcome those fleeing danger, and it will not contribute to the Administration’s goals of establishing prosperity and security in Central America,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, Senior Associate for Mexico, Migration and Border Issues at LAWG.
The DHS notice also states, “The CAM Parole program was implemented as part of an integrated strategy to address factors contributing to increases in migration from Central America to the United States. However, as indicated by the President’s Executive Order, DHS is pursuing a new strategy to secure the U.S. southern border.” With this statement, the administration reiterates its anti-refugee and anti-immigrant vision, refusing to acknowledge the protection needs of children, individuals, and families fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America.
As a result of yesterday’s announcement, individuals who had been conditionally approved for parole, but who had not yet traveled to the United States, will be notified that their offers have been rescinded. The DHS notice states that processing under the CAM Refugee Program will continue. However, the vast majority of CAM program applicants were not categorized as refugees, but as parolees. The chances of approval for refugee status are low or close to impossible in light of current processing delays and recent Executive Orders that fixed a cap on global refugee admissions.
LAWG urges the reversal of this decision, the reinstatement of parole for pre-approved individuals who had already met their criteria for travel, and for the serious review of other applicants’ claims under the CAM Refugee Program. LAWG calls on the administration to adhere to U.S. and international law in offering individuals, children, and families due process, asylum access, and international protection at the U.S.-Mexico border and throughout the region.
See joint NGO letter to Secretary Tillerson and Acting Secretary Duke urging the Administration to reaffirm its commitment to the CAM Refugee Program and to other in-country processing programs for individuals fleeing extreme violence in Central America. [Download PDF]