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Biden administration reopens and expands immigration program for minors

Migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean walk in a caravan in Tapachula, Mexico, August 28, 2021. They head to the Mexican capital to seek asylum and refugee status. (CNS Photo / Jose Torres, Reuters)

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration relaunched and expanded in mid-September an immigration program aimed at reuniting some immigrant parents in the United States with their children left behind in Central America.

The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security announced on September 13 that the U.S. Refugee Admission Program is accepting new applications under the Central American Juvenile Program.

The program allows some migrant parents – and now expanded to include legal guardians – to apply to bring in children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, even though some of the adults only have temporary permission or have pending cases that will later determine if they can stay in the United States

Those who can petition include immigrants with lawful permanent residency or “green card” holders, those with temporary protected status and others with a variety of cases pending in court in the United States. immigration and filed before May 15, 2021, said a new release from the State Department.

“We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, and to reuniting families. We are keeping our promise to promote safe, orderly and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal avenues to seek humanitarian protection in the United States, ”the statement said.

The announcement comes as undocumented minors from Central America continue to arrive in increasing numbers at the US border. This appears to be part of a strategy to discourage Central Americans from sending children alone on a dangerous journey to the border, and instead filling out papers to obtain refuge or asylum for them from their home country. .

Days after the announcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials reported and released a photo of a 2-year-old girl and baby in a car seat that had been abandoned among grasses by a river near Eagle Pass, Texas.

Robert Garcia, CBP chief patrol officer for the Del Rio area of ​​Texas, tweeted on September 14 a photo of the two children, Honduran siblings, who appeared to be hidden among the tall foliage and an officer intervening to extract them .

“The attention to detail our officers exercise in the line of duty can mean the difference between life and death,” Garcia tweeted. “It is heartbreaking and frustrating to know that there are abandoned children with no remorse or concern for their lives and well-being.”

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump ended the petition program for minors, known as CAM, started in 2014 by then-President Barack Obama in response to a new wave of minors at the border. Since then, however, the numbers have increased.

CBP statistics showed more than 76,000 minors entered the United States in fiscal 2019, the year a record was set. But fiscal 2020, which ends September 30, will go beyond that; As of July 6, the latest figures available from CBP show that the inflows of unaccompanied minors for the 2020 financial year had exceeded 93,500.

The administration has been hit hard from all political sides, including its base, criticizing overcrowded conditions and the continued detention of children in immigration custody.

During an Aug. 12 visit to Brownsville, Texas, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas responded to some of the criticism and said conditions were improving and the administration was working to put in place ” orderly channels allowing migrants to seek help under our laws, without having to take the perilous journey north.

CBP officers reported an increase in incidents of smugglers abandoning minors at the border, including an August 26 incident involving 20 foundlings walking alone near a dike. The agency also documented smugglers throwing children over the wall on the Mexican side towards the United States.

“Transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit the most vulnerable population – the children of foreign countries,” CBP El Paso sector chief Gloria Chavez said in a statement. “They are responsible for putting the lives of thousands of unaccompanied children at risk by manipulating their parents and later abandoning their children at the border.”

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