"Truthiness" about the Central American Minors Program

By Dan Cadman on May 4, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing late last month entitled "Eroding the Law and Diverting Taxpayer Resources: An Examination of the Administration's Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program".

The Central American Minors (CAM) program is another one of those whole-cloth creations established by the Obama administration in pursuit of its goal of unfettered borders and de minimis deportations.

It uses vast leaps of statutory interpretation and deliberate miscasting of past immigration programs as fig leaves to cover its real purpose. That purpose is to divert ongoing and future illegal migrant surges away from the border (which is deeply embarrassing and might cause some uncultured person in the crowd to declare that, where border security is concerned, this emperor has no clothes) and instead spend untold dollars setting up camps in Central America to process and fly these "minors" — who can, in fact, be up to 20 years old — directly to the United States at (American) taxpayer expense for resettlement.

Testifying at that hearing were Jan Ting, a law professor at Temple University and member of the Board at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and Jessica Vaughan, policy director for CIS.

Also testifying, on behalf of the government, was Joseph Langlois, associate director for refugee, asylum, and international operations at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

During his testimony, Mr. Langlois made the following extraordinary statement: "The CAM program allows certain parents lawfully present in the United States to request a refugee resettlement interview for their unmarried children under the age of 21 in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The CAM program is not a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States. In addition, under certain circumstances, a parent with whom the child resides in one of the three countries will also be eligible to access the resettlement program to maintain family unity."

This is one of those kinds of statements that is "true" only for select values of truth. It contains factual truthiness while in fact misrepresenting the intent and scope of the CAM program.

Consider, for instance, that many — possibly most — of these parents are only "lawfully present" because the Obama administration has found ways to give them paperwork to, at least temporarily, disguise their illegal status under programs whose constitutionality and legality are now being examined by the federal courts.

Consider also that, as Professor Ting notes in his testimony, the program relies on a vast and legally dubious expansion of the use of immigration paroles to permit resettlement to "minors" who don't meet the definition of refugees under international or domestic immigration law.

Consider, finally, that it isn't just minors, but in a number of instances their parent(s).

So, contrary to Mr. Langlois' representation, if this program isn't, by any reasonable measure, a wholesale resettlement of undocumented children and parents, then nothing is.

Honest disclosure: I know, like, and respect Joe Langlois. He and I served together for several years in the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service. We had different backgrounds, served in different divisions, and maintained different philosophies, but I always found Joe to be sharp as a tack and forthright in demeanor. So what gives here?

What most people probably don't know is that when a government official testifies before Congress, he or she isn't volunteering to do so; quite often he is the organization's designated goat and chosen by his bosses depending on the subject matter. What's more, government officers aren't free agents. They may or may not write the first draft of their testimony, but by no means do they get the final word. It's pored over by teams of lawyers, congressional liaison staff, and, finally, by the political masters in charge of the agency (and, often, much higher in the bureaucracy depending on the sensitivity of the subject matter).

No one can make a government officer outright lie to Congress, but on the other hand, they can be sure that he sails pretty close to the wind if that's what is necessary to stay on script in pushing the administration's agenda. I'm pretty sure that's what happened here.