Press Release: Expanded Central American Refugee Program Welcomed, but Won’t Help Those Already Here



Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Contact person: 
Cristina Garcia
(773) 875-3314

Expanded Central American Refugee Program Welcomed, but Won’t Help Those Already Here

         Temporary Protected Status Needed to Protect Vulnerable Children, Youth and Families

Chicago, IL – The Obama Administration announced this morning an expansion of the program that allows unaccompanied Central American children to enter the United States as refugees, to include some family members, including unmarried siblings over the age of 21, parents and “caregivers.” Those in immediate danger could also request processing in Costa Rica. Amy Pope, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor acknowledged that the current program is inadequate to meet the need for people who could qualify as refugees, but who currently lack a mechanism to apply.

Alianza Americas’ Executive Director, Oscar Chacón made the following statement: 

We welcome the acknowledgement that there are families in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who merit protection as refugees. This program should be implemented immediately and operate much more swiftly and efficiently than the previous version. The small number of children who have received protection over the past two years does not even begin to match the need. The emergency processing option in Costa Rica should be used to protect those in immediate danger, and by no means should allow the United States to warehouse refugee-seekers in a third country.

The irony of this announcement is that it was not accompanied by a decision to remove Central Americans who have already managed to reach safety in the United States from the list of people targeted for deportation under the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) in 2014. In fact, it comes just a few months after the Administration announced aggressive raids targeting Central Americans with orders of deportation. Given the dire circumstances cited for expanding in-country application for refugee status, it is unconscionable that children and families are continuing to get deported to those very same dangerous conditions. The administration should review both its foreign and domestic policies to address the underlying drivers of migration in the region, but as a first step we must stop sending people back to the very violence they fled. We call on the Administration to award Temporary Protected Status for those who have fled violence in the region and are currently residing in the United States, and to immediately remove those individuals from PEP and halt deportations.