Refugee Council USA Decries the Administration’s Decision to Deny Life-Saving Refugee Protection to Thousands of Vulnerable Children
Urges the Administration to complete interviews for all current applicants
Washington, DC – Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) decries the Administration’s termination of the Central American Minors – Affidavit of Relationship (CAM-AOR) program that provides life-saving support to thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. RCUSA voices its strong opposition to the Administration’s decision to cease interviewing CAM-AOR cases on January 31, 2018.
CAM-AOR is the only safe and organized pathway for vulnerable children fleeing persecution and violence in Central America to receive life-saving protection and join a parent who is lawfully present in the United States. Central American children are running from terrifying risks including forced gang conscription, rape, and targeted killing –often after suffering torture– if they refuse to “cooperate” with gangs. It is in line with our strongly-held American values to respond to emergencies producing refugees and the internally displaced, and to care for children seeking safety. The humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America deserves and demands an appropriate humanitarian response in line with these values.
As of November 15, 2017, there were nearly 7,000 children with applications in the CAM-AOR program that are still pending a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interview. With only one known DHS interview circuit planned before the January 31, 2018 deadline, thousands of children in extremely dangerous situations will see their cases closed administratively.
Hans Van de Weerd, Chair of RCUSA, said, “these are children who face unsafe conditions, and the steps they took to be considered for this program, for many, put them at greater risk. The United States made a promise to give these kids a chance, and leaving them without an opportunity to be interviewed by DHS is nothing short of heartless.”
The phase-out of any protection program always requires careful planning and adequate time, capacity and resources to ensure that all cases that remain in the pipeline are processed with equity. It would be unprecedented to see a resettlement program closed without processing pending cases; to do so for a program specifically designed for vulnerable children is particularly grotesque.
RCUSA implores the Administration to, at the very least, ensure that all the kids who submitted applications in good faith be interviewed and processed in a fair and timely manner. If the Administration does not commit to process pending CAM-AOR applications, many of these children will be without options for safety and thus driven toward dangerous and often deadly migration. By turning our backs on children seeking safety, the United States is complicit in increasing their risks of being trafficked, exploited, or raped along their journey to safety. The failure to process all the pending applications for Central American kids is cruel and un-American. RCUSA is committed to working with the Administration to reunite children in need of protection with their families in the United States.
Contact: Danielle Grigsby, RCUSA Associate Director, firstname.lastname@example.org