November 5, 2020
In the summer of 2014, a dramatic rise in the number of unaccompanied children who were fleeing violence and danger in their home countries, particularly from the northern countries of Central America—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—led the Obama Administration to create an alternative mechanism for reuniting parents and children, one that would reduce the need for children to strike out on a dangerous journey to the United States alone and unprotected. From its inception in December 2014, the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program (CAM) provided an important lifeline for many Central American children at risk of persecution or other violence, whose parents were lawfully present in the United States. The CAM program utilized the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to conduct “in-country” refugee processing, which allowed children to be interviewed for refugee status without leaving their home country, but CAM also allowed them to be paroled into the United States if they were found to be in danger, even if they were not found to be refugees. The program also allowed certain family members to accompany the child to the United States. This humanitarian exercise offered a new model for refugee adjudications in Central America that had enormous potential to change the pattern of unauthorized migration from the Northern Triangle to the United States, especially for unaccompanied children.