Women’s Refugee Commission Condemns Termination of Central American Minors Program

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Washington, DC – Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that it plans to phase out the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program during fiscal year 2018. The CAM program began at the end of 2014 under the Obama administration and provided in-country processing for vulnerable children fleeing violence and grave danger in their home country. The program, available in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, allowed children to apply for refugee status or humanitarian parole in the United States. Only children with parents present in the U.S. with lawful immigration status were eligible. Further, children had to go through many screenings as part of the process in order to establish that they qualified for protection – in the form of refugee status or temporary parole – because of the danger they were facing. Access to parole through this program was terminated in August 2017.

As of August 4, more than 1,500 children and eligible family members had arrived in the U.S. as refugees – and another 1,500 arrived with grants of humanitarian parole – under the CAM program. According to the U.S. State Department, more than 13,000 people have applied for the program since it began.

Leah Chavla from Women’s Refugee Commission made the following statement:

“Thousands of children qualified for refugee status and humanitarian parole under the CAM program, and many more applications are pending at the time of this announcement. Phasing out this program will leave children fleeing violence in their home countries without a critical lifeline and without other options. While the CAM program was not a solution for all children facing persecution and violence, it provided a legal and orderly way for some children to apply for protection in their home country and arrive to the U.S. safely, without having to take a dangerous journey to get here. This announcement to end the only safe and available alternative is especially contradictory and hypocritical when, at the same time, the Trump Administration is threatening to prosecute parents for helping bring their children to this country in order to save their lives.”