The State Department announced Friday that it is establishing a refugee program in the three Central American countries that were the source of the majority of the unaccompanied alien children who came to the U.S. in waves this summer.
The State Department also announced that it would have “some flexibility” in increasing the number of refugee visas allocated to the three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The program’s stated intention is to provide “a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey” for children from the three nations. The announcement comes as President Obama is set to grant executive amnesty to an estimated five million illegal immigrants.
“This program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries,” the State Department’s announcement reads.
“Children who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis. The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States, but instead, the program will provide certain vulnerable, at-risk children an opportunity to be reunited with parents lawfully resident in the United States.”
The program is similar to one floated this summer. The New York Times reported back in July that the administration was considering creating a refugee program for Honduran youth. The program would cost $47 million over two years based on the assumption that 1,750 people would be granted refugee status out of 5,000 applicants. (RELATED: Obama Might Grant Refugee Status To Young Hondurans)
Beginning next month, parents who are in the U.S. legally will be able to file form DS-7699 with the State Department to request a “refugee resettlement interview.”
“Unmarried children under 21” in the three Central American countries are eligible for the program.
“Under certain circumstances, if the second parent resides with the child in the home country and is currently married to the lawfully present parent in the United States, the second parent may be added to the child’s petition and considered for refugee status, and if denied refugee status, for parole,” the announcement reads.
After the form is filed, the International Organization for Migration will step in to help the child-applicant. The organization will invite the applicant to a pre-screening interview in their home country in order to prepare them for an official interview with the Department of Homeland Security.
The applicant will undergo a DNA test in order to prove the blood relationship between the parent and the child-applicant. The interview with DHS will proceed after the genetic relationship is proved through the DNA test.
If the interview is approved, the International Organization for Migration will make travel arrangements for the Central American child. The parent of the applicant must sign a promissory note agreeing to pay back travel costs.
“Approved refugees will be eligible for the same support provided to all refugees resettled in the United States, including assignment to a resettlement agency that will assist with reception and placement, and assistance registering children in school.”
Applicants who are found ineligible for refugee status by DHS are not without hope.
They “will be considered on a case-by-case basis for parole, which is a mechanism to allow someone who is otherwise inadmissible to come to the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”
Refugees admitted under the program will count against the annual number of refugee visas allocated to the Latin American/Caribbean region, which is 4,000 for the year.
The State Department anticipates “a relatively small number of children from Central America will be admitted to the United States as refugees in FY 2015, given the anticipated December launch and the length of time it takes to be processed for U.S. refugee admission.”
However, the State Department is leaving open room to admit more refugees.
“If needed, there is some flexibility within the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to accommodate a higher than anticipated number from Latin America in FY 2015,” the document reads.