Central American "Refugee" Program Admits Few Actual Refugees

Most of the youths being approved under the Obama administration's new Central American Minors Refugee/Parole (CAM) Program do not qualify as refugees, but are being admitted as parolees, according to new data released in a stakeholders' teleconference last week, confirming earlier reports.

This program, unveiled in November 2014, has been misleadingly described as a refugee program that will provide a safe alternative to hiring the criminal alien smuggling organizations that have been enriched by the administration's open door policy for illegal juvenile and family arrivals from Central America. In the official program announcement, the State Department stated:

The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States.

In fact, as even the most cursory examination of the program makes clear, the CAM is essentially an unauthorized family reunification program for Central Americans who came to the United States illegally and who are not eligible for any legal program to bring in the family members that they left behind.

So far, about 4,300 applications have been accepted, representing about 4,800 people. The parent sponsors must fall into one of five categories, mostly covering illegal aliens in the United States who have been given a temporary quasi-legal status.

Of those adjudicated (so far about 90), only 12 percent received conditional approval as refugees. The vast majority, 84 percent, were conditionally approved as parolees. The remaining 4 percent are undergoing additional review (meaning they don't appear to be approvable at this point, but the agency will do its best to find a way to say yes).

A representative of one of the many "mas-migration" groups on the conference call voiced disgruntlement that so few of the applicants were being awarded refugee status, which in addition to qualifying the applicant for a vast array of public welfare benefits also leads to a green card and potentially citizenship. A USCIS presenter noted that parole is not such a bad deal either, as it's a status from which one potentially can adjust to a green card, and the relatives of parolees also can obtain parole.

A participant from the Post-Deportation Human Rights Program of Boston College asked the government officials to confirm that it is possible for juveniles who have been deported from the United States, and who have other problems such as criminal convictions or gang membership that would normally disqualify them, to be approved for this program. The officials confirmed that this is possible, and that these applicants could seek a waiver for certain disqualifying factors, as refugees can.

One participant asked if a parent could sponsor a child for this program if the parent is currently in removal proceedings. A government official said he would look into that.

No information was offered on how many of the applications have been received in each of the qualifying categories of sponsors. This information is tracked on the Affidavits of Responsibility that are part of the application. The five categories of status that qualify a parent to sponsor a child through CAM are: Lawful Permanent Resident (even though green card holders already can sponsor their children so they have no need for refugee status or parole); Temporary Protected Status; Parole; Deferred Action (including U visa holder, VAWA petitioners, and DACA recipients); and Deferred Enforced Departure/Withholding of Removal. All of these categories except for LPR are used primarily to launder the status of illegal aliens. Under the law, individuals with TPS, Parole, Deferred Action, and DED are not permitted to sponsor family members for admission because they are not a legal form of admission or permanent residence.

During the Q&A part of the teleconference I asked if the government presenters could provide information on 1) the number of applicants seeking waivers of ineligibility/inadmissibility and 2) the number of applications from sponsors in each of the five qualified categories. They asked me to submit the questions through their website, and I have not heard back. The Senate Judiciary Committee submitted similar questions after holding a hearing on the program last April entitled "Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration's Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program".