On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times revealed:
The Biden administration on Tuesday announced the major expansion of a program that would allow many such youths into the country legally, part of its stated goal to increase “legal pathways” for immigration. The changes could boost the number of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran children joining their families in the U.S. from several hundred to tens of thousands.
The in-country processing will resume with Tuesday's announcement, administration officials said. Advocates warned against allowing burdensome backlogs to form in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, with screening, interviews, vetting, and cross-border paperwork that delay and ultimately discourage applicants, some of whom feel too at risk to wait it out [and choose to take their shot trying to sneak into the U.S.]
On Tuesday, The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the LA Times reporting, which cited an anonymous source:
The program in question is the State Department-administered Central American Minors (CAM) program, established by the Obama-Biden administration in 2014 in response to a wave of unescorted children reaching the border. Its expansion would essentially allow the sitting Democrat president to use the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to create a new immigration pathway for the families of migrants — chain migration. On March 10, the Biden administration announced it was restarting the program.
The LA Times added:
Tuesday's decision vastly increases the potential pool of children who will be allowed to seek entry. It expands the categories of adults who may petition for children to join them, adding to the mix legal guardians and parents whose legal status in the U.S. is still being processed, including those with pending asylum cases or applications for what is known as a U visa given to victims of violence, the official said.
The official [who spoke on condition of anonymity] said there could be at least 100,000 newly eligible petitioners.
Many of the children and youths — who must be unmarried and younger than 21 — also will be allowed to avail themselves of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which provides numerous benefits and is also being expanded by the Biden administration, the official said.
Former President Donald Trump shut down CAM in 2017. The program allowed parents living legally in the U.S. to petition to have their children join them to diminish the number of kids traveling alone. It also allowed migrants attempting to go to the U.S. to apply for refugee status and await the processing of their applications in their home countries.
“We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, as well as providing a legal alternative to irregular migration,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas declared in a joint statement.
They stressed that CAM's expansion was part of a broader effort to expand legal access to safer immigration.
“The expanded Biden version will have more outreach, but the rationale is the same: Don't come here illegally because we will come get you in legally,” Nayla Rush, a refugee and asylum policy expert at the Centers for Immigration Studies (CIS), wrote on Tuesday.
She acknowledged that it is unclear what will happen if an immigration judge denies the asylum or the visa claim and if “caregivers” of those children could also be allowed into the U.S.
Under the Biden administration, a surge of migrants mainly from the Central American Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including thousands of unaccompanied alien children (UACs) has intensified to record levels.
Biden kept in place the Trump-era pandemic control protocols (Title 42) that granted the DHS the power to quickly remove any migrant, including asylum seekers.
However, under the new administration, Title 42 appears to be only smoke and mirrors. President Biden has loosened the measure, allowing exceptions for hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied children, a growing number of families, vulnerable adult migrants such as sexual minorities, and many migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and outside the Americas.
Asylum cases can take years, given the immigration backlog exacerbated by the pandemic and border crisis. Biden is offering at least some asylum seekers work permits, and they can take advantage of resettlement U.S. taxpayer-funded aid under USRAP.
U.S. law deems a refugee is an alien who, generally, has experienced past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Fleeing poverty or violence, such as most Central Americans, is not grounds for asylum.