The Obama administration is moving forward with a little-known program that will bring the families of legal immigrants from Central America to the United States.
The Obama administration launched the program, the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program, in December, minus any legislation from Congress, but hasn’t widely advertised it yet. The joint program between the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is bringing in primarily children (under 21) and in certain cases, grandchildren and spouses of immigrants who are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The immigrants currently in the United States who are eligible include legal immigrants, including those with deferred action. The USCIS website bills it as a “safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.”
Immigrants eligible for the program can qualify for refugee status — which allows them to eventually receive green cards and ultimately citizenship. Those who don’t meet refugee requirements can become eligible for parole, which is applied in urgent humanitarian cases, according to USCIS.
State Department officials say they’ve received 329 applications so far, but haven’t approved any, according to The Washington Post.
The program is meant to target at-risk youth in Central American countries. The influx reached its peak during the summer of 2014, when over 10,000 children alone were crossing the border every month, according to data from Customs and Border Protection.
The rush of child migrants in 2014 quickly overwhelmed federal resources and many were placed in temporary shelters. The number of migrant children has been escalating since 2012, when President Obama announced during his campaign for re-election that his administration would stop deporting some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children.
The number of unaccompanied minors from Central America that were apprehended by customs officials at the border grew from just 3,933 in 2011 to 51,705 in 2014.