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State Department plans to end Central American Minors program

In a recent presentation to refugee organizations, the State Department announced that the Trump Administration has decided to end the Central American Minors program, or CAM. The CAM program allowed minor children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to enter the U.S. legally as refugees.

The administration plans to wind down the program on or before Dec. 31, 2017, according to ProPublica. Once the program is ended, no further refugee applications will be accepted for the children. They still would have the option of seeking asylum in the United States -- if they can reach the U.S. border safely.

"Ending the program would force desperate children into the arms of smugglers and traffickers because they don't have a safe and orderly way to get to the U.S.," said a spokesperson for the immigration advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense.

Aside from the difficulty of reaching the U.S. safely in order to seek asylum, ProPublica points out that such an application may expose the children's parents to child smuggling allegations. Moreover, as we've discussed on this blog before, several immigration advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit accusing Customs and Border Protection of turning lawful asylum applicants away at our borders.

The good news is that the need for the CAM program has been declining. In August of this year, the U.S. admitted a total 19 Central American refugees. In the program's highest month, last December, 160 were admitted. The total number admitted so far through CAM is 1,627.

The CAM program was not large. It required parents to be lawfully admitted to the U.S. and to prove their offspring's identities via a DNA test. Nevertheless, 75 percent of CAM applications were denied.

Last month, the Trump administration also ended a program that allowed children who didn't qualify for refugee status to come to the U.S. temporarily by showing a compelling humanitarian reason. While refugee status requires the applicant to demonstrate a "well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group," it is somewhat easier to show a compelling humanitarian reason.

The humanitarian program accounts for 1,465 admissions of children to the U.S. An additional 2,500 were initially approved, but their approvals were rescinded when the program was canceled.

The cancellation of these programs represents a sharp reduction in the United States' willingness to help others from abroad. Next year, the U.S. will accept an historically low number of refugees.

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