Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson says he is disappointed more people are not taking advantage of the Obama administration’s new program to transport Central Americans to the U.S. at taxpayer expense.
“I’m disappointed that not more people are utilizing this, and I believe that we need to promote the new program better,” Johnson said Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
In November the Obama administration announced its new Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program that allows legally present people — including illegal immigrants granted amnesty — to bring their relatives living in Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador to the United States.
The administration has promoted the program as an alternative to people making trek north and says it’s part of the solution to last year’s large influx of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. across the southern border.
“I think this is a joint effort by us and the State Department and the governments in the Central American countries. But I’ve been disappointed that not more parents in the U.S. are using this program to petition to have their children brought here,” Johnson added.
In testimony before a Judiciary subcommittee last week, State Department official Simon Henshaw testified that so far the government has received 565 applications: 439 from El Salvador, 114 Honduras, 12 Guatemala. Those applications are currently being processed, he noted.
The CAM Program has been criticized by immigration hawks who say it represents another unilateral immigration by the Obama administration.
“I just want to say, Congress rejected this. So the President is executing it on his own,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said at last week’s hearing.
“It’s a new program and in fact, in effect establishes a new system of immigration to the United States,” he added.