Washington, DC — The Trump Administration is abolishing a critical legal pathway for children in life-threatening danger in Central America to legally access protection in the United States; children in fear for their lives will have no choice but to make the treacherous journey to the United States and to try to access U.S. protection at our borders.
“By shutting down the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program, the Trump Administration is not only cutting an essential lifeline for these children, but is creating the conditions for more children to come to the U.S. without authorization—and at grave personal risk—because they have no other way to access U.S. protection,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Terminating CAM will also fuel traffickers and smugglers who take advantage of desperate children and families.”
The U.S. State Department stopped accepting applications for the program on November 9, 2017. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has now announced that it will stop interviewing potential refugee children on January 31, 2018.
It is unclear what will happen to the thousands of children with pending applications who have not been interviewed by that date. The Administration said that they “will receive a notice with further instructions.”
Two children still in limbo are Anna and Joziel. Their mother is a teacher in El Salvador at a school in a gang-controlled area. She began receiving threatening messages from gang members who were former students, demanding that she pay them an extortion fee. They have said that they will harm Anna and Joziel if she does not pay. Gang members threatened Anna and Joziel on their way to school, warning that their mother had better pay or suffer the consequences. Anna and Joziel fear for their lives. Anna has dropped out of school to hide from gang members. They are desperate, hoping for safety in the United States through CAM.
CAM was established in 2014 to create a legal pathway for children facing grave harm in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to apply for U.S. protection from their home country. Children who were determined to be ineligible for refugee status could apply for parole into the United States. The Trump Administration ended parole in August 2017.
More than 14,000 applications have been filed under the program. More than 1,770 children have arrived as refugees, and nearly 1,500 came to the United States under parole. Parole was revoked for 2,700 who had not yet come to the United States when the Trump Administration ended parole under CAM in August. With this new announcement the U.S. is now abandoning thousands more Central American children to potentially life-threatening violence—yet again.
Alejandra escaped a cycle of violence in Honduras in which she was trapped only because she was recognized as a refugee through CAM and able to come to the United States. Alejandra was left in the care of her grandparents after her mother fled to the United States to escape domestic violence. Alejandra’s grandparents cared for her, but when they died Alejandra’s life turned upside down. Placed with a series of family members who resented being charged with her care, Alejandra suffered extreme mistreatment and abuse. A family member sexually abused her. Her aunts beat and emotionally abused her. Alejandra had nowhere to turn and entered a relationship with a man 20 years her senior who she thought would protect her. He coerced her into sexual relations and manipulated her, isolated her from society, and controlled her every move. Alejandra is now safe from violence and fear for the first time in a long time thanks to CAM.
“By forsaking children in danger in Central America, the United States is leaving these children to face grave harm from gang violence and other persecution from which their countries cannot protect them,” said Young. “Not only are we abandoning these children, we are abandoning our country’s core value of child protection. The very least we can do now is to process the pending cases, which could save children’s lives and follow through on our commitment to these children.”
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, email@example.com, 202-631-9990