The Biden administration announced Monday, Sept. 13, that the Obama-era immigration program that allows Central American children to reunite with their parents in the U.S. had resumed taking applications.
The Central American Minors (CAM) program grants refugee status to children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who have parents or guardians legally present in the U.S.
People can start to apply for CAM as soon as Tuesday, CBS News reported.
Officials have promoted it as a safe and legal alternative to the frequently perilous journey that migrant children take to reach the southern border.
In a joint statement, the departments of State and Homeland Security said the program’s resumption was a commitment to more humane immigration management.
“We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States,” the statement reads.
The program started in 2014 under the Obama administration. As reported by ABC News, it was met with tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America seeking asylum in the United States.
It ended three years later as President Donald Trump walked into the office. He initiated zero-tolerance border policies, acknowledging a potential threat of ISIS, al Qaeda, or other terror groups leaking themselves into the United States via refugee groups. CAM was hence terminated.
Reviving the policy, the Biden administration plans to provide at least three years of legal residency to parents of the families separated during his predecessor’s restrictions.
Minors must apply for CAM while in Central America, a requirement devised to minimize the number of children presenting at the U.S.–Mexico border while also cutting demands for human smuggling services.
Children already at the Mexico or the U.S. southern border cannot apply for the program even if they are eligible.
“Our goal is to help families and children stay at home by addressing the factors that push them to make a difficult decision to leave and rebuild our asylum system to deter irregular migration,” officials revealed to KTSM.
“We also remind that the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic under Title 42 remain in effect,” they added.
The reinstated CAM program further allows eligibility for certain U.S.–based parents or legal guardians who have a pending asylum claim or a pending visa petition submitted before May 15, 2021.
CBS News reported from the officials that there had been more than 3,000 pending applications stopped during the Trump era. They added that more than 1,400 cases had been reactivated, but no children have yet arrived in the United States.
The news media noted from government data that approximately 83% of the unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S. border this year were nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.