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Day of Action for Central American Minors

The Central American Minors Program (CAM) needs your support: 7000  children who fled violence in their home countries to seek safety in the U.S. may not get the opportunity to interview for refugee status. 

The administration has announced that CAM will be canceled and no cases will be heard after January 31, 2018. At the Institute, we have 52 open cases, and nationwide, 7000 children are waiting for their cases to be considered. If the arbitrary deadline is upheld, the U.S. will break the promise we made to these children.
Urge Congressional leadership to demand that the U.S. keep its promise and consider all of these children’s pending applications. Call  1-855-472-8930 to participate in this day of action.

Here’s a sample of what to say:

My name is ___. I am deeply troubled by the Trump Administration’s decision to end the resettlement program for Central American children. I am calling to urge Representative/Senator ___ to call the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and demand that they keep their promise to these vulnerable children and their parents. DHS must interview every child who has applied before they end this program.

Press release from our national organization: USCRI:

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) expressed opposition to the Administration’s decision to end the refugee program for Central American minors with parents in the United States. “The Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program helped protect children facing persecution and who met the refugee definition under U.S. law,” said USCRI Acting Chief Executive Officer Eskinder Negash. “With the decision to end the CAM refugee program, the Administration is undercutting a legal lifeline for children who face violence, rape, and even death at the hands of criminal gangs,” he said. Negash urged the Administration to continue to process all applications for the CAM refugee program that were submitted to USCIS prior to the end of the program including continuing interviews, admissions of approved cases and requests for review on an expedited basis. “We made a promise to try to protect these children and it’s only fair for us to honor that promise by processing those who have applied,” said Negash.

The Central America Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole programs, announced by the U.S. State Department in 2014, helped families stay together, staying true to our American values. USCRI proposed in-country refugee processing as part of Six Solutions in the summer of 2014. In 2015, USCRI submitted a statement to Congress in support of the CAM Refugee/Parole program. The Administration ended the CAM Parole program in August 2017. The CAM Refugee/Parole programs provided some children a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to embarking on the dangerous journey to the U.S. and preventing them from becoming victims of human smugglers and trafficking operations.

History of CAM:

The Central American Minors-Affidavit of Relationship program (CAM-AOR) has, since its inception in January 2015, provided protection to over 3,000 vulnerable Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan children and their immediate family members, by allowing them to reunify with parents in the United States through in-country processing of their applications. The majority of children who have been admitted to the U.S. through CAM-AOR have reunified with a parent or parents with TPS, while a small percentage have joined parents with DACA or another form of lawful stay making them qualify to apply for their children. Approximately 55% of those children admitted to date were admitted with refugee status, while 45% were granted humanitarian parole[1]. Prior to the creation of the CAM-AOR program, there was no means for Central American children (or adults) to access resettlement through the US refugee admissions program.

In August 2017, the Trump Administration cancelled the parole component of the CAM-AOR program, informing approximately 2,700 children who had already been approved for parole that their acceptance was revoked. In September, the Administration then signaled its intent to cancel the entire CAM-AOR program, with language to that effect in its Report to Congress on the FY18 US Refugee Admissions Program. On November 8, the Administration announced that it would stop accepting new applications on November 10, giving resettlement agencies only 24 hours to submit all pending applications. Finally, on November 15, DHS announced that it would stop interviewing CAM cases on January 31, 2018. This is an extremely short time to phase down a resettlement processing operation, given the volume of applications in the pipeline.

As of November 15, there were 6,910 persons who had applied to the CAM-AOR program but were still pending a DHS interview.[2] With almost 7,000 applicants still pending a DHS interview and only one circuit ride[3] (of uncertain size) known to be planned before January 31, it is reasonable to assume that hundreds or more likely thousands of children who have already applied to the program and are in some stage of processing may see their cases administratively closed. The abrupt termination of the program leaves 7,000 children in limbo without an alternative process to protection.

More than 85% of children entering the US through the CAM-AOR program have a parent with Temporary Protected Status in the United States. TPS is a lawful immigration status granted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to nationals of countries that experience natural disasters, armed conflict, or other extraordinary conditions that make return unsafe. By statute, a country may be designated for up to 18 months at a time, with extensions are available so long as unsafe conditions continue. People in the U.S. at the time of the original designation are able to remain here and work legally until the designation expires. The Trump Administration has recently terminated TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti. The deadline to decide whether to extend TPS for El Salvador and the nearly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS holders in the U.S. is January 8, 2018; the deadline to extend TPS for the 57,000 Hondurans living in the U.S. is July 5, 2018. Given that more than 85% of children entering the United States through the CAM-AOR program have a TPS holder parent, it is deeply concerning that a TPS holder parent could be deported, forced to leave behind their child who entered as a refugee or parolee.

[1] Parole is a statutory mechanism used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services that allows an individual, who may not qualify for admission to the U.S. through any other means, to be admitted into the U.S. for a temporary period for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Parole was used in the Central American Minors program to grant admission to children who did not strictly qualify for refugee status as interpreted by CIS, but for whom there was a compelling humanitarian, protection or family reunification need. Children granted parole were admitted only after the same security vetting and other requirements (eg DNA testing) as children admitted with refugee status.

[2] This number includes both principal applicants and derivative family members. Since the average case size in the CAM-AOR program is around 1.25, this means that there are an approximate 5,500 cases pending a DHS interview.

[3] Overseas refugee processing is conducted by specially-trained DHS/CIS Refugee Corps officers, who are fielded to overseas locations to conduct refugee interviews and collect security screening information during trips called “circuit rides.”

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