June 10, 2021
Biden Admin Plan to Restart Central American Minors Program Faces Questions
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley
(R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is seeking
information from the Biden administration about announced plans
to restart the Central American Minors program (CAM), through which certain
minors from three countries could be considered for refugee resettlement or
parole in the United States. The original program ended in 2017.
“I’m worried that this effort is going
to be somehow passed off as an effort to address the number of migrants at the
southern border when it does nothing to stem the flow or address the crisis
created by this administration. There’s no evidence to suggest that arrivals at
the southern border or illegal crossings were reduced when the Obama
administration tried this years ago, so there’s no reason to think it will have
that effect now,” Grassley said. “Congress made clear that parole can
only be granted on an individual, case-by-case basis in very limited
situations, and not be used as a back door into the United States for certain
groups and classes of people who don’t qualify for existing types of visas.”
In a letter to Secretary of State
Tony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Grassley is
seeking detailed information about the number of individuals who were approved
as refugees or paroled into the country during the prior iteration of CAM
program and how those numbers compare to other approval rates for refugee
status. He also presses the administration to provide an explanation of how it
intends to “expand” the program and whether the administration will continue
DNA testing to verify claimed biological relationships. Grassley also asks
about the number personnel that will be redirected to staff the restarted
text of Grassley’s letter follows or can be found HERE
June 9, 2021
Honorable Anthony J. Blinken
Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
of Homeland Security
Dear Secretaries Blinken and Mayorkas:
I write to you regarding the Biden Administration’s
announcement earlier this year of the resumption of the Central American Minors
(CAM) program. On March 10, 2021, the
Department of State issued a press release announcing that, “[a]s another concrete step in implementing [the
Administration’s] comprehensive regional migration management strategy,” the
Departments of State and Homeland Security are “expanding legal pathways to
enter the United States by reopening the Central American Minors (CAM)
program.” More specifically, the Department of State’s
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) “is working closely with
DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reopen the program
in two phases: the first will process eligible applications that were
closed when the program was terminated in 2017, and the second will begin to
accept new applications with updated guidance to follow.”
The CAM program was
established in 2014 “to provide certain minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and
Honduras the opportunity to be considered, while still in their home country,
for refugee resettlement in the United States.”
Individuals who were determined to be
ineligible for refugee status were then considered by USCIS for the possibility
of entering the United States under parole.
Under the original terms
of the CAM program, for a minor to be eligible to apply for refugee status or
be considered for parole, the minor had to be
the child of a “qualifying parent”; had to be unmarried; had to be under the
age of 21, and had to be a national of El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.
A qualifying parent of the minor had to be
at least 18 years old and lawfully present in the United States in one of
several categories, including deferred action, parole, or Temporary Protected
Status. If the minor
applying for refugee status him- or herself had an unmarried child under the
age of 21, that child could be attached to the minor’s application as a
derivative family member and go with the minor to the United States if the
minor’s refugee application or request for parole was approved. A parent of the minor who was not in the
United States, but who lived with the minor and was married to the qualifying
parent in the United States, could also be attached to the minor’s application
as a derivative family member.
The CAM program was
terminated in 2017 in stages. The parole
portion of the CAM program was terminated in August 2017, and on November 9,
2017, the Department of State stopped accepting new applications for the
refugee portion of the CAM program.
In addition to my continuing concerns
about the legality of the CAM parole program, I have doubts about the potential
effectiveness of the reinstatement of the CAM refugee/parole program. In order to help me and my colleagues better
understand the function of the reinstated CAM program, and how it differs from
its prior version, please answer the following questions no later than June X,
many individuals applied for refugee status under CAM during each year CAM was in effect? How many were approved?
has been reported that the approval
rate for refugee status within CAM was “significantly lower” than in other U.S.
What was the worldwide refugee application
approval rate during each of the years CAM was in effect?
was the refugee application approval
rate during each of the years CAM was in effect for each of the regions from
which refugees were approved for resettlement in those years (i.e. Europe and
Central Asia, Near East and South Asia, East Asia, Africa, and Latin America
and the Caribbean)?
many individuals requested parole under CAM during each year CAM was in effect? How many were approved?
many CAM parole cases were reopened in May 2019 under the court order and
related settlement agreement in S.A. et al v.
Trump? How many of those cases were
State Department’s March 10, 2021, statement indicated that the Bureau of
Population, Refugees, and Migration and USCIS were “developing plans to expand
the program and accept new applications.”
In what ways does the Administration plan to expand the CAM
program? Does the Administration plan to
change the eligibility criteria for access to CAM?
old CAM parole program required that DNA relationship testing occur between all
claimed biological relationships.
According to testimony from a senior USCIS official in 2015, DNA testing
was required in order to protect minors.
The State Department has stated that the DNA requirement will continue
to be applied in the reinstated CAM program.
confirm that the DNA requirement will continue to be required in the reinstated
the Administration planning to make any changes or adjustments to the DNA
requirements that existed under the previous version of CAM?
a DNA test also being required for family reunifications, and related parole
requests, arranged by the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of
now, I would expect the parole of all the individuals who received parole under
CAM and came to the United States between 2014 and 2019 has expired. Have all those individuals had their parole
extended? Is there any limit on the
number of times a recipient of parole under CAM may extend their parole?
many personnel will the Department of State and DHS dedicate to administering
CAM? Specifically, how many refugee
officers does DHS currently have and how many of those does DHS plan to send to
Central America to process CAM cases?
an individual whose application for refugee status under CAM is denied still
eligible to subsequently make an asylum claim after illegally crossing the U.S.
Thank you for your attention
to this important matter. Should you have
questions, please contact Drew Robinson of my staff at 202-224-5225.
In-Country Refugee/Parole Processing for Minors in Honduras, El
Salvador and Guatemala (Central American Minors – CAM), U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services, https://www.uscis.gov/CAM
Id.; Termination of the Central
American Minors Parole Program, Notice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
82 Fed. Reg. 38,926 (August 16, 2017), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2017-08-16/html/2017-16828.htm
However, on June 13, 2018, a complaint
was filed in federal court challenging the decision to terminate the CAM parole
program. Supra, note 3. Pursuant to
the Final Judgment and Order for Permanent Injunction in S.A. et al v. Trump
issued on May 17, 2019 and related settlement agreement, USCIS reopened and
continued processing of a limited set of CAM parole cases under the previous
CAM parole policies and procedures. Id.