Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2017 / 23:01 pm
After the Trump administration ended a parole program for young migrants from Central America, the head of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee expressed his disappointment.
“In terminating the parole option, the Administration has unnecessarily chosen to cut off proven and safe alternatives to irregular and dangerous migration for Central American children, including those previously approved for parole who are awaiting travel in their home countries,” Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops' conference's migration committee, stated Aug. 21.
The Central American Minors parole program was established in 2014, at the height of the spike of unaccompanied migrant children coming to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America.
While the number of unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S. had risen significantly beginning in the 2012 fiscal year, the number ballooned to its all-time peak of more than 50,000 in FY 2014. The number fell almost in half in the next year due to Mexico’s apprehensions of minors, but it again spiked to almost 47,000 in FY 2016.
The parole program was established with the intent of giving “at risk” children from Central America who were not granted refugee status a safe and legal avenue to the United States to reunite with their parents.
Through the process, those parents lawfully present in the United States would apply for their children to be considered for parole, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman explained in a report last year. Children denied refugee status could also be automatically considered for the parole program. They would be vetted by U.S. security and could lawfully apply for entry into the U.S.
However, the report had brought up concerns with the program, such as “lengthy processing times,” lack of protections “for particularly vulnerable qualifying children,” and “restrictive eligibility criteria.”
The program was ended last Wednesday. Children who received “conditional approval” for entry into the U.S., but had not yet made the journey, would no longer be accepted. More than 2,700 minors had won “conditional approval” to come to the U.S. but could no longer enter, the Washington Post reported.