Wednesday's decision is a further example of President Donald Trump's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and make it harder to enter the US for Central Americans seeking protection, though the program has the potential to feed the dangerous networks the Trump administration has sought to cut off.
The Central Minors Program was terminated
as of Wednesday following a review initiated by Trump's January executive order on immigration enforcement. Trump's executive order required all instances of undocumented immigrants being paroled to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The CAM program had allowed children under the age of 21 with parents lawfully living in the US to be automatically considered for parole to live in the US if they did not qualify for refugee protections but were still at risk of harm.
Nearly 3,000 minors who had been in limbo as the program was being evaluated will now not be unable to come to the US, not counting the people who would have applied if it continued.
The new policy does not affect those who qualified for refugee status, and would-be recipients of the program can still apply for parole through general applications offered by the Department of Homeland Security, but they will no longer be able to use the CAM program to automate that process.
The change will not apply to individuals already residing in the US under parole, and those recipients will be able to re-apply when their parole expires. But any individuals who had conditional approvals for parole will no longer be able to come to the US. The program stopped considering applicants in February.
All told,1,465 individuals have been granted the ability to travel to the US through the program since its inception in December 2014. But nearly double that -- 2,714 people -- had been conditionally granted parole and will now be unable to come to the US legally under the program. The vast majority of both groups come from El Salvador, followed by Honduras, with a small number coming from Guatemala.
Roughly one-third of applicants under the program overall were approved for refugee status, and that part of the program will remain unaffected. Only 1% of applicants were denied for either refugee or parole status, with 69% being recommended for parole -- the piece that will be discontinued.
The program was conceived in 2014 as a way to allow legal residents of the US to bring their children to them and away from violence and dangerous situations in their home countries, and in certain specific cases, the child's parent and legal spouse of the US resident was also considered along with them. That served as an alternative for parents who might otherwise turn to smugglers to bring their children to the US illegally.
The Trump administration has made a priority of cracking down on illegal immigration and has particularly highlighted the dangers of the smuggling pathways that are the only means to enter the US illegally. DHS has recently pursued cracking down on parents and guardians who smuggle their children into the US as unaccompanied minors -- a population that is usually resettled in the US with sponsors or family members.
The administration has also sought to paint immigrant minors as contributing to the gang problem in the US -- although the expert consensus is that young and teenage undocumented immigrants are far more likely to be victims of the gangs once in the US than to bring ties with them from Central America.
Without CAM, parents will only be able to apply through the general parole application offered by US Citizenship and Immigration.