WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 13, 2015) — As an element of the U.S. government’s response to a surge in migration of unaccompanied minors from Central America, the Obama administration in December 2014 established an in-country refugee processing program for minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who have parents living lawfully in the United States.
The Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program was designed to provide a legal, safe alternative to the dangerous, unauthorized journeys that many thousands of unaccompanied children have taken in hopes of reaching the United States.
A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report, In-Country Refugee Processing in Central America: A Piece of the Puzzle, offers an analysis of the CAM program, which as of mid-August had received 3,344 applications. The vast majority of applicants are from El Salvador, with smaller numbers from Honduras and Guatemala.
The report, written by MPI Associate Policy Analyst Faye Hipsman and Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, who heads the Institute’s U.S. immigration policy program, also examines the history of U.S. in-country processing programs. The CAM program is the latest in a series of in-country processing initiatives that began in 1979, in response to wars, humanitarian crises, and periods of political repression. Vietnam, Haiti, Cuba, states in Eurasia and the Baltics, and Iraq, are among the countries in which the United States has used in-country processing as a component of the U.S. refugee admissions system.
In-country programs have typically been controversial. The report finds that their success turns on key factors such as admissions criteria, how the application process is structured, the speed of adjudication, and whether applicants can be adequately protected during the application process.
Though still in its early days of implementation, the CAM program may provide an alternative to the dangerous journeys that some unaccompanied minors undertake across Central America and Mexico. “But it is not likely to do so at a scale that can significantly reduce child migrant flows to the United States at this time,” the authors conclude.
For those interested in the report, it can be read at: www.migrationpolicy.org/
The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development, and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national, and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.