The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it will fully reopen a program for Central American children that was created under the Obama administration, but was then terminated by the previous administration as part of its anti-asylum crusade. The Central American Minors program allowed children in Central America to be able to reunite with parents who were already in the U.S. and had legal status.
But when the previous administration terminated the policy in 2017, nearly 3,000 children who had already been approved to rejoin parents in the U.S. were left stranded. Biden’s State Department said in its announcement reimplementing the program that the first phase of the rollout would focus on “eligible applications that were closed when the program was terminated in 2017, and the second will begin to accept new applications with updated guidance to follow.”
“Together with other efforts across the U.S. Government, reopening the CAM program is an important step toward expanding lawful pathways for humanitarian protection and opportunity in the United States,” the State Department said. “During the life of the program, we have reunified nearly 5,000 children safely and securely with their families. The program reflects our values as a nation and represents our continued commitment to ensure that our immigration system treats people with dignity and respect and protects the most vulnerable, especially children.”
The Biden administration is reimplementing the program as the number of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. without parents has increased. This is due to the Biden administration allowing children to be exempted from the Stephen Miller-pushed policy using the novel coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to quickly expel asylum seekers. But that policy unfortunately remains in place for just about all other asylum-seekers (contrary to “open border” lies from congressional Republicans). A small number of families are also being allowed through following the “Remain in Mexico” wind-down.
“On this front, they’re moving heaven and earth to accommodate the kids who’ve been turned away,” Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights lawyer Jennifer Nagda told The New Yorker. “Trump turned thousands of children away, and the Biden Administration is bringing them back in.” Kids in Need of Defense vice-president Jennifer Podkul told The New Yorker, “these aren’t brand new cases of people setting out for the U.S. These are kids who’ve been waiting at the border, in some cases for more than a year.”
The Obama administration had created the CAM program in 2014, when larger numbers of Central American children and families began to arrive at the southern border. “Administration officials wanted to provide them with an alternative and to dissuade those considering making the dangerous journey to the US–Mexico border,” BuzzFeed News reports. The previous administration was then sued over its 2017 termination of the CAM program, agreeing in 2019 to process the nearly 3,000 children who had been approved.
But the Associated Press reported that only a few hundred had been approved by last year, stalled by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Or so officials claimed, because they really loved using the pandemic as an excuse to block everyone at the border. If there’s anything as constant as families seeking refuge and hope at our nation’s door, it’s the deplorable voices seeking to turn them away. In one notorious incident back in 2014, anti-immigrant protesters blocked buses carrying children and families, some holding signs reading, “return to sender,” and “stop illegal immigration.” Once again, for the record, asylum is legal immigration.
“Some 140 immigrant children and families had been flown from crowded facilities in Texas and were set to be transported to other Border Patrol stations,” The Washington Post reported at the time. “The standoff proved too much for police. Federal authorities were forced to reroute the immigrants away from Murrieta and to a customs and border facility in San Diego within view of the border, the Associated Press stated.”
They’re still at it. Just weeks after white seditionist supporters of the previous president tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, congressional Republicans including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are echoing the language of anti-immigrant hate groups. They did it again this morning.
“When he’s not defending Dr. Seuss or opposing COVID-19 relief, McCarthy is focused on the ‘threat’ of teenagers fleeing for their lives and throwing themselves at the mercy of a nation that once called itself a City on the Hill,” America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry said. “This is what the Republican Party has come to: white nationalists are good, they’re an essential part of our base; non-white refugee children are bad, they’re an existential threat to America.”