On June 15, 2021 the Biden administration announced that thousands of Central American immigrants in the U.S. were now eligible to petition for their children to immigrate legally as part of a program designed to discourage children from crossing the border alone. The Biden administration has chosen to revive the Central American Minors program, which started as an Obama-era program that allowed at risk children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to come into the United States once their parents gained legal immigration status. "We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States," Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
This program was developed as a solution to the large numbers of Central American children that journey to the southern border of the United States alone. The number of unaccompanied migrant children taken into custody on the U.S.-Mexico border has risen dramatically during Biden’s time in office. In May 2021, 14,000 migrant minors entered the custody of U.S Border Patrol without their parents. According to government statistics, 80% of unaccompanied children who cross the southern border of the United States have family members already residing in the country.
The Biden administration has stated that immigrants in the U.S. who have obtained green cards, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other forms of legal immigrations status would be eligible to file applications on behalf of their children. They will also allow immigrant parents and legal guardians with pending applications for asylum or U visas to file applications on behalf of their children while their applications are being considered. After their parents submit applications, the children are interviewed to determine whether they qualify for refugee resettlement based on violence or persecution that they may have suffered. USCIS determines eligibility for refugee status on a case-by-case basis.
According to USCIS, individuals determined to be a refugee through this program will undergo a medical exam. If approved for travel, they will undergo cultural orientation, and will receive assistance with travel arrangements to the city where the U.S.-based qualifying parent resides. If applicants are denied refugee status, the children may still be granted humanitarian parole, which allows them to stay in the United States with their parents on a temporary basis. Parole does not place immigrants on a pathway to citizenship.
If you are a Central American from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with legal or pending legal immigration status, you may be eligible to apply for refugee status on behalf of your children. Please contact Mil Mujeres Legal Services if you think you might be eligible and need assistance.