US admits that it doesn’t admit enough Central American refugees
The White House on Tuesday announced a substantial expansion of a program to admit Central American refugees to the United States, conceding that its efforts to protect migrants fleeing dangerous conditions has been inadequate and left too many vulnerable people with no recourse.
Currently, the program allows unaccompanied Central American children to enter the United States as refugees. It will be expanded to include their entire families, permitting siblings over the age of 21, parents and other relatives who acted as “caregivers” to qualify. Officials could not say how many refugees might be eligible under the expansions, but the change is a potentially significant one, essentially opening an entirely new channel for Central American families to gain legal entrance to the United States.
“Our current efforts to date have been insufficient to address the number of people who may have legitimate refugee claims,” Amy Pope, a deputy homeland security adviser, said in a conference call to announce the changes. She said the White House was moving forward with the revisions because officials recognize that “the criteria is too narrow to meet the categories of people who we believe would qualify under our refugee laws, but they just don’t have the mechanism to apply.”
The White House also said it had reached an agreement with Costa Rica to serve as a temporary host site for the most vulnerable migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras while they wait to be processed as refugees, once they have undergone security screening in their home countries. The United Nations high commissioner for refugees has agreed to set up an unusual process for reviewing requests for people in their home countries to qualify as refugees and send them to Costa Rica if they are facing immediate danger.
Only 600 people have entered the United States as refugees since the influx began, officials said, including 267 children under the program created for minors with parents living in the United States who are citizens or legal immigrants. Now, that program will be broadened to family members of such children.