Biden Administration Further Expands Central American Minors Program
FAIR Take | April 2023
In a Notice published last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State laid out plans to expand the Central American Minors (CAM) Program. The changes outlined are yet another effort from the Biden Administration to circumvent our immigration laws and create a functional amnesty program that allows people to enter the country and stay, despite no legal authority to do so.
Originally implemented under the Obama Administration in 2014, the CAM Program allows lawful permanent residents (LPRs), humanitarian parolees, and even illegal aliens to file a form to sponsor children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for refugee status. Those not eligible for refugee status are automatically considered for parole, a tool used to allow individuals to temporarily enter the country without lawful status.
In 2017, the Trump Administration moved to terminate the program, but court challenges allowed it to effectively stay in place for many who had already applied. In March 2021, the CAM Program was officially relaunched in two phases, with the first phase reopening and processing cases that did not receive a refugee interview before January 2018 and the second phase, beginning in June 2021, expanding the categories of sponsors eligible to apply for refugee status and parole for children. Under this expansion, permissible sponsors also included: (1) legal guardians; and, (2) parents and legal guardians with a pending asylum application or U visa petition for crime victims filed before May 15, 2021.
Last week’s action allows parents and legal guardians with pending asylum or U visa petitions filed through April 11, 2023, and, for the first time, expands sponsor eligibility to parents and legal guardians with pending applications for T visas for victims of human trafficking.
Virtually all of these sponsors will, by definition, be illegal aliens. According to USCIS guidelines for the updated CAM Program, other illegal aliens eligible to sponsor persons through CAM include legal guardians and parents with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), deferred action, and deferred enforced departure. Allowing illegal aliens to sponsor family members into the U.S. through CAM creates a huge incentive for more illegal immigration and asylum fraud. Individuals from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador now see that if they are able to cross into the U.S. illegally and claim asylum, they will at a later date be able to send for their children.
Moreover, the aliens brought into the U.S. through CAM are not limited to children or even the sponsor’s children. Parents or “primary caregivers” living with the qualifying child(ren) in the home country may also be brought into the U.S. And, those in-country parents can include their own unmarried children under the age of 21, even if those children are not related to the qualifying parent located in the United States. In-country children of a qualifying parent located in the United States who are over the age of 21 or married can also create their own case and include their spouse and unmarried children under 21 as derivatives.
The Notice also explicitly defines the significant public benefit standard necessary to grant humanitarian parole under INA 212(d)(5) in a global sense, rather than restricting it to parole benefiting the American public, and further conflates that public benefit with radical, open-borders policies designed to increase access to “lawful pathways” of immigration.
It likewise adopts an open-ended definition of “urgent humanitarian need” for the purposes of humanitarian parole, citing a report from the Council on Foreign Relations stating that, “[e]conomic insecurity, food insecurity, climate change, gang violence, corruption, and sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence, coupled with the desire to reunite with family members already in the United States, are driving child migrants … to the United States.”
Perhaps most incredibly, the Administration is seeking to bypass the Administrative Procedure Act (which requires public notice and comment) by claiming the changes are purely discretionary and consistent with the underlying statute and are, moreover, a foreign affairs function of the U.S. government exempt from such comment periods.
The CAM Program and the “enhancements” included in this Notice are nothing more than a shadow family immigration program, created through wholesale usurpation of Congress’ plenary authority over immigration and in open violation of the parole statute.