Central American Minors Program Has Not Admitted Any Applicants


The Central American Minors Refugee/Parolee Program (CAM), a program announced last year to mitigate the number of unaccompanied minors from Central America detained at the U.S. Mexico border, has not admitted any of its applicants since December 1, 2014.

The program would allow lawfully present Central American immigrants to the U.S. to sponsor their children under 21 born outside the U.S.

The Obama administration announced the program last November in response to the very public influx of unaccompanied children and teenagers coming across the U.S.-Mexico border, largely to escape violence at home. According to the USCIS website, the program is meant to provide a “safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.”

Last year, nearly 70,000 unaccompanied Central American children were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly arriving from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These numbers have dropped sharply in 2015, but violence in these countries continues to force children to flee north.

As of October 6, nearly 4,000 applications have been filed under CAM. Yet of those, only 90 have been interviewed – 76 of these were for children from El Salvador, and 14 were children from Honduras. Within this group of interviewees only 14% were approved for refugee status, while most were permitted to enter the U.S. on humanitarian parole, a status that does not break federal law but does not constitute official resident status. However, despite these approvals, none of the children interviewed under CAM have entered the U.S.

Immigration advocates are frustrated with the program’s lack of action. Lavinia Limón, president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, told the Huffington Post, “Nobody ever thought this was a panacea, but the fact that it hasn’t worked, it undermines any credibility the administration might have in terms of actually trying to address the concerns of those kids.”