Few, if any, Guatemalan children have made it to the US under an expanded program to reunite children with their parents in the US, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit organization Refugees International. .
President Joe Biden restarted the Central American Juvenile Program, known as CAM, in March 2021. It was launched by the Obama administration in 2014 and terminated by the Trump administration in 2018.
The program originally allowed parents who were in the US legally through parole or Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to apply for and apply for refugee status for their children and certain family members of the children. children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
But the US has never granted TPS to people from Guatemala; it has been awarded to people from El Salvador and Honduras following natural disasters in those countries. During the Obama administration, only 2% of applicants for the CAM program were Guatemalan.
In September 2021, the Biden administration expanded the pool of eligible applicants to include parents who applied for asylum or U visas, which are typically granted to crime victims.
The second phase was supposed to open the door to more Guatemalan children, said Yael Schacher, Americas and Europe director for Refugees International, which advocates for refugee rights and protection.
However, a report by the nonprofit advocacy group found that few Guatemalan children have arrived under the app’s expansion.
In stark contrast, nearly half of all unaccompanied children who crossed the Mexican border into the US last year were from Guatemala, including children trying to reunite with their parents in the US.
“We wanted to focus on Guatemalans just because this is really the first time they’ve been eligible,” said Rachel Schmidtke, Senior Advocate for Latin America at Refugees International. “The US government is building a little more infrastructure to process CAM cases in Guatemala, as well as to reach out to Guatemalan families in the US.”
Statistics about Phase 2 of the program are not publicly available. Refugees International relied on information from US government officials, resettlement agencies that handle applications, local non-governmental organizations, and families.
Since the start of Phase 2, the program has received about 1,000 applications, according to the report. About 25% of the applicants were of Guatemalan parents; most were Hondurans and Salvadorans combined.
Schacher said that it is «a small number for the three nationalities: 250 applications for Guatemalans in the last year and a half,» adding: «That is very little.»
Drive reach and resources
According to the report, a lack of contact with Guatemalan parents who are eligible to apply is keeping application numbers low.
Additionally, the difficulty in getting children in Guatemala to CAM interviews to support their application claims means few are granted refugee status.
The report also found that those granted parole have difficulty obtaining passports to leave the country. Under Guatemalan law, both parents must consent to obtain a passport.
“This requirement disproportionately impacts children under the age of 18 and women who have fled domestic violence, because many times the father is absent or the aggressor,” Schmidtke said. «The passport requirement is definitely something that needs to be changed to make the process easier and make more people available for the CAM program.»
In an emailed statement, a State Department spokesperson said that since the CAM program restarted in March 2021, «The United States has worked to provide a safe and legal alternative to irregular migration for minors of the region».
The statement went on to say, «We continue to evaluate the program for improvements that better serve its intended beneficiaries, such as the Fall 2022 award to new NGO partners dedicated to simplifying application intake and expanding outreach efforts.»
The report recommended that federal agencies invest more resources in the CAM program, including greater collaboration with officials in Guatemala and Mexico and more outreach to Guatemalan families.
He also recommended that the federal government make information about the program more readily available and that US Citizenship and Immigration Services have an online «check case status» feature so families can verify the status of the program. progress of their cases.