On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden formally announced a new asylum program that will allow juveniles in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to apply for refugee status from their home countries. And even some who do not meet the requirements may be admitted to the United States and be granted temporary work permits.
Those seeking asylum from those three countries—where most of the illegal immigrant juveniles who flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border originated—must be under 21 years of age and have parents who legally live in the United States, according to the Associated Press. Biden made the announcement before President Barack Obama reportedly will grant executive amnesty to five million illegal immigrants, including the parents of juveniles who have legal status in the United States.
U.S. officials have “said that children deemed refugees will be able to work immediately upon arrival in the U.S., opt for permanent residency the following year and for naturalization five years later.” In addition, according to the Associated Press, “applicants who don’t meet the requirements will be evaluated to see if they can be admitted conditionally under a non-permanent migratory status that allows them to work temporarily in the U.S.”
At a Central American conference at the Inter-American Development Bank, Biden reportedly said that the new program, which was leaked months ago, will provide “those seeking asylum a right way to come to our country, as opposed to crossing the border illegally.”
Parents of juveniles who meet the requirements can apply “free of charge for refugee status for their children in the Central American countries.” The U.S. will reportedly grant asylum to 4,000 juveniles from Latin America each fiscal year, according to news reports.