The Biden administration has expanded a program that allows legal immigration to the United States for minors from Central America. The move comes as the government continues to fight an increase in the number of migrant children illegally crossing the southern United States border with Mexico.
âThe expansion of the program is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to find more avenues for Central Americans to migrate legally. This move could make tens of thousands of newly eligible children to participate in the program, âsaid Jalina Porter, spokesperson for the US State Department.
Launched by the Obama administration in 2014, the Central American minors program applies to people under the age of 21 from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Over the past 10 years, these countries have sent a majority of migrants seeking asylum to the US-Mexico border.
However, when the policy was first initiated by Obama, it was heavily criticized by some immigration advocates in the United States who said it set a track too narrow because few families qualified for it. ask to pick up their children.
The program was created by the Obama administration in response to the first wave of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally, to give them a safer way to reach the United States. Former US President Donald Trump ended the program in 2017, saying it was a US immigration route created without congressional approval.
Current US President Joe Biden reinstated the program on March 10, 2021.
According to the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group, only 3,092 of the more than 10,000 children who applied between 2014 and 2017 were allowed to enter the United States under the program. Now many more could be eligible.
Jalina Porter said, âWe are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, as well as providing a legal alternative to irregular migration. “
“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,” added Ms. Porter.
The expansion of the program could potentially reunite thousands of Central American families. Daniella Burgi-Palomino, who handles immigration issues for the Latin America Task Force, a Washington-based advocacy and research organization, said: “This is going to be a saving step for so many. children in danger. “
“It’s not going to help absolutely everyone … but so many other children will have access to it,” she added.
Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said: âIf the new expansion is successful, it could potentially take a much larger share of the large number of children and young adults who hope to migrate north.
âThe goal, before and now, was to provide an alternative to the truly dangerous journey so many people take,â Gelatt added.
Officials in the Biden administration have announced that in-country processing for the Central American juvenile program will now resume.
Meanwhile, immigrant advocates have warned against allowing arrears to form in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with cross-border screening, interviews and paperwork, which delay and ultimately discourage applicants, including some feel too risky to wait.
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