U.S. Has Imported over 4,000 Minors from Central America

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images Recently detained migrants, many of them family units, sit and await processing in the US Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas on August 12, 2019.
File Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The U.S. allowed over 4,000 kids and teenagers to enter the country legally under the Central American Minors (CAM) program before the Biden administration expanded it this week.

Under President Joe Biden, the State Department, which administers CAM, restarted the Obama-era program on March 10 after Donald Trump ended it in August 2017.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced steps to expand CAM, a move that the State Department believes could make tens of thousands of new applicants eligible.

The Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Hackman reported that day:

Before the program was terminated,1,450 children entered the U.S. under humanitarian parole, and another 2,700 had been conditionally approved [for a total of 4,150], according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS], the agency that handles legal immigration.

When disseminating her report on Twitter, Hackman provided a slightly larger total from the State Department of migrants under 21 admitted as refugees or on humanitarian parole, which could be subject to renewal but does not provide legal immigration status.

“Got new Central American Minors program numbers: Since the program’s inception [in 2014], more than 2,600 applicants have been resettled to the U.S. as refugees, and more than 2,200 have been admitted under parole [for a total of 4,800], per State Dept.,” she tweeted, without adding those figures to her article.

Hackman did not explain the discrepancy between the figures provided by USCIS and State.

The 650 additional minors that the State Department said were allowed into the U.S. may stem from the Biden administration reopening cases after they were closed when Trump terminated CAM. Breitbart News reached out to the State Department for comment but it had received no response by the time this report was submitted for publication.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas noted, “We continue to reopen cases that were closed when CAM was terminated.”

The Journal learned that as of Tuesday, the Biden administration had not begun accepting applications to the program, which affects minors from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, since it was restarted on March 10.

Last week, Ricardo Zuniga, the U.S. special envoy for the so-called Northern Triangle countries, blamed logistical challenges for the delay in processing new applications.

The Northern Triangle region, a name denounced by some Central American leaders, refers to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Zuniga told reporters last week:

There was a pretty sizable backlog, still from the gaps that were left in that period. So, especially in this period where we are organizing ourselves at a time where we have our own issues related to logistics around the pandemic, there are challenges with getting ourselves up and running.

When the Obama-Biden administration launched CAM in 2014, it allowed parents living legally in the U.S. to petition to have their children join them to diminish the number of kids traveling alone. It also permitted minors attempting to go to the U.S. to apply for refugee status and await the processing of their applications in their home countries.

The expansion now allows Central American economic migrant parents and legal guardians with pending asylum cases — not just approved claims — to petition the feds to bring their minors to live with them in the U.S.

Under the expansion, the feds could fly children and teenagers into America on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime, as migrants crossing the southern border illegally remain record high.

It appears that if authorities deny the asylum claims to the U.S.-based migrants who are now allowed to petition for their kids and teenagers, they may be able to apply for a plethora of other qualifying categories, including “deferred enforced departure or withholding of removal.”

Blinken and Mayorkas added in their statement:

Eligibility to petition will now be extended to include legal guardians (in addition to parents) who are in the United States pursuant to any of the following qualifying categories: lawful permanent residence; temporary protected status; parole; deferred action; deferred enforced departure; or withholding of removal. In addition, this expansion of eligibility will now include certain U.S.-based parents or legal guardians who have a pending asylum application or a pending U visa petition filed before May 15, 2021.

The Journal cited State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter as indicating that “the expansion, part of the administration’s effort to find more pathways for Central Americans to migrate legally, could make tens of thousands of children newly eligible to participate in the program.”

Since Biden became president, there has been a record-setting surge of migrants in recent months, fueled largely by unaccompanied children.

In 2014, the Obama-Biden administration launched CAM to offer Central American migrants under 21 a safer and legal alternative to enter the U.S. in response to the first large wave of unaccompanied alien children crossing the border illegally.

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