In 2014, President Obama’s administration responded to an influx of unaccompanied Central American minors immigrating to the U.S. by creating the Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole program. Under the program, unmarried people under the age of 21 who came to the U.S. were eligible to apply for refugee status. If their refugee status was denied, they were automatically applied for parole to stay in the U.S. under the CAM Parole program. Effective August 16, 2017, the parole program is no more because of President Trump’s January 25 immigration executive order, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that children currently in the U.S. could stay under humanitarian parole but their status would have to be renewed in order to stay.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, humanitarian parole, like the one that was offered for Central American Minors, is a last ditch effort when all other avenues to enter the U.S. have been exhausted. It is only granted “for urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit.” It is possible to go from a parolee to permanent status under certain circumstances, including political asylum or having a relative in the U.S. Being in the U.S. under parole is temporary but can be renewed if there is a significant risk to the individual whose parole has expired.
The program being canceled has impacted 2,700 minors who had been “conditionally approved” to come to the U.S. — many of them being El Salvador — according to Reuters. Reuters also reports that since the program started, 1,400 children have been granted parole status, allowing them to travel to the U.S. Now that the program has been canceled, thousands of Central American minors remain in danger of returning to areas where gang violence that has crippled neighborhoods.
“We’re talking about children who were found to be in danger, or to fear for their lives,” Lisa Frydman, the Vice President, Regional Policy and Initiatives with Kids In Need Of Defense, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “This program was launched really as a way to provide a safe and orderly path for Central American children in danger to arrive in the U.S. as an alternative for the dangerous migration journey.”