In March, the Biden-Harris administration restarted the Central American Minors (CAM) program, an Obama-Biden migration scheme that was terminated by the Trump administration. On June 15, in a joint statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the new administration – which is currently facing a border/illegal migration crisis of its own creation – announced that it is expanding CAM.
CAM is a program that allows qualifying children – as well as unmarried adults under 21, and, in some cases, also in-country parents – from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to enter the U.S. as refugees. Officially, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states that “[o]nly certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States may request access to the program for qualifying children.”
Those found ineligible for refugee status may simply be paroled into the country, which “does not lead to any immigration status, but does allow you to enter and stay temporarily in the United States and to apply for work authorization” (of course, we know that once foreign nationals get their foot in the door, there is rarely anything “temporary” about their stay).
As noted, those parents applying for the CAM program are supposed to be in the country lawfully. However, the administration is stretching the meaning of “lawful presence” beyond recognition. Applications are being accepted from illegal aliens with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), those who have received parole status, the beneficiaries of “deferred action” or the “withholding of removal,” and foreign nationals with pending asylum cases. In fact, the Biden administration falsely claims that these illegal aliens are “lawfully present in the United States.” Since legal permanent residents already have avenues to bring in children and relatives via “family reunification” (albeit the wait times are usually longer) it is likely that many – if not most – individuals taking advantage of CAM will be illegal aliens included in one of the above categories. In other words, illegal aliens will be selecting new immigrants.
Of course, given that the administration uses the euphemism “irregular migration” to refer to illegal migration, it should not surprise us that it is engaging in semantic games regarding “lawful presence.” In fact, this exemplifies the Biden-Harris administration’s entire approach to its self-inflicted border crisis, which is to attempt to mislead the American people by slapping labels of “legality” and a “safe and orderly process” onto the problem rather than actually trying to fix it.
In essence, the expanded CAM program is, as FAIR President Dan Stein put it, “a blatant attempt … to perpetuate unchecked illegal immigration without the bad optics.” To avoid the public relations black eye stemming from Central American children being smuggled into the U.S. by cartels and coyotes, the administration would have our government “act as the delivery agent.” While that will certainly make the journey safer, it also sends a message to the Northern Triangle that Team Biden refuses to secure America’s borders, thereby incentivizing more illegal migration. And, as the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, emphasized: this kind of extractive migration is harmful not only to the U.S., but also to the sending nations.
In addition, American taxpayers will be compelled to foot the bill so that the administration and its activist supporters can virtue signal and feel good about themselves. While those CAM beneficiaries admitted as refugees are asked to pay back their interest-free travel loans (however, a large number never do), and parolees will have to pay for medical tests and travel, there are other costs. Refugees will be able to receive welfare and other assistance, and the vast majority indeed do (FAIR estimates that refugees already receive more than $867 million dollars in welfare programs each year). School-age individuals will undoubtedly contribute to overcrowded classrooms and many will certainly require Limited English Proficiency instruction. In turn, working-age CAM beneficiaries will also further increase the job competition faced by American workers.
Ultimately, CAM exemplifies the Biden-Harris administration’s myopic emphasis on only the “push” factors that exist in migrants’ home countries. At the same time, the administration pretends that its disastrous immigration policies are not exacerbating the myriad “pull” factors that are creating vast numbers of new illegal migrants.
Pawel Styrna is Senior Researcher at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and a legal immigrant