The Obama administration is reportedly considering allowing Hondurans under the age of 21 to directly apply for asylum from their nation to live in the United States.
According to a draft proposal obtained by The New York Times, if approved, “it would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States.” And up to “50 percent of applicants in Honduras could be considered for relief” without ever having to step foot in the United States first.
As the Times notes, refugees, under American law, “are people fleeing their country of origin based on fears of persecution by reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” But many of the Hondurans fleeing violence are trying to escape gangs and may not fit into those categories. At least 45,000 illegal immigrant children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have been apprehended at the border since October of last year, and the Obama administration may expand the program to Guatemala and El Salvador in the future.
The plan, according to the Times, “would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds.” The “children would be interviewed by American immigration employees trained to deal with minors, and a resettlement center would be set up in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, with assistance from international organizations like the International Organization for Migration.”
And some who do not initially qualify may be given a chance to enter the United States on “humanitarian parole.”
According to the Times, the pilot program that is being reviewed by several agencies would “cost up to $47 million over two years, assuming 5,000 applied and about 1,750 people were accepted.” The cost could be significantly greater, though, since at least 18,500 illegal immigrant children from Honduras have been apprehended since October of last year. And that number is expected to significantly increase in the next fiscal year.
Obama will meet with the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras on Friday at the White House.