RCUSA Deeply Concerned by Administration’s Decision to Halt Life Saving Protection Program for Children from Central America

October 23, 2017

RCUSA Deeply Concerned by Administration’s Decision to Halt Life Saving Protection Program for Children from Central America

Urges Administration to Create Alternative, Stable Protection Mechanisms

Washington, DC – Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) is deeply concerned by the Administration’s intention to close the Central American Minors (CAM) program this fiscal year. CAM has been providing protection through resettlement and humanitarian parole for children in life-threatening situations who were living in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle). It has also provided them a legal pathway to come to the United States in a safe and orderly manner without having to take the dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico, where many are put in further danger and at increased risk of exploitation and human trafficking.

Terminating the CAM program is inconsistent with our nation’s values, undermines our country’s role as a global and regional humanitarian leader, and strips children of a key avenue for protection. “This program helped to protect vulnerable children from becoming victims of persecution in their own countries as well as victims of sexual violence and human trafficking,” explains RCUSA Chair Hans Van de Weerd. “Children in the program were able to avoid these and other harms.”

Since the program’s inception, over 1,500 children were granted refugee status and permanently resettled to the United States through the CAM program, and almost 1,500 came to the U.S. through a humanitarian parole program. Thousands of others have been interviewed and await determinations of their refugee claims in their home countries. The program allowed children to travel lawfully to the United States, avoiding dangers in their home country and avoiding imminent risks of exploitation and abuse on their journey north. Exemplifying the real and life threatening harm faced by these children and the need for the CAM program, RCUSA members have reported that children waiting for processing experienced great harm, including murder, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and being targeted for their organs.

RCUSA calls on the Administration to reconsider its decision to terminate this life-saving protection program. “Conditions in the Northern Triangle region have gone from bad to worse,” states Hans Van de Weed. “This is not the time to limit protection of vulnerable children. It is the time to seek more solutions.”

RCUSA urges the Administration to continue to process all applications that have been submitted and to expedite the admission of approved cases and requests for review. RCUSA also urges the Administration to create a permanent solution for children who were granted humanitarian protection through parole and are currently living in the United States with their families.

RCUSA would also like to draw attention to those children from El Salvador and Honduras who have arrived as refugees, were paroled into the United States for humanitarian reasons, or have been granted asylum and whose families are in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). We must work together with Congress and the Administration to ensure a permanent, stable solution for these children and their families. Since these children fled dangers in their home countries, often including targeted violence toward them and their families, their family members with TPS will possibly face the same dangers if returned.

Also, if their parents or other caretakers are deported when TPS expires, these children may be denied the promise and support of family, as well as the opportunity to live in safety, to build a new life, and to contribute their skills and passions to communities across America.

Finally, we urge the Administration to work with UNHCR, other countries in the region, RCUSA, and others in civil society to find additional viable, life-saving resettlement and other protection options for these at-risk children in Central America and their families. These measures should be taken while also continuing to strengthen access to asylum in the region and in the United States.

Contact:  RCUSA Associate Director, Danielle Grigsby (dgrigsby@rcusa.org)