The Obama administration’s response to being blindsided by last year’s surge in illegal alien minors (or at least who claimed to be minors) from Central America was two-fold. First, the administration announced that the minors would not be given legal status and would be sent home. After that idle threat lost credibility by the failure to follow through, the next ploy was to announce a new program for opening a new door for the legal entry of Central American minors separated from their illegal alien parents in the United States by treating them as refugees or using parole to admit them.
The idea was to reduce the illegal flow by offering a legal route that was safer and less expensive. To qualify for that program, the parent(s) in the United States have to have some legal presence (but not legal residence). That condition applies to a large number of Central Americans in the United States as a result of the long-standing Temporary Protected Status (since 1998 for Honduras and 2001 for El Salvador) and other forms of relief from deportation.
To make the program work, the administration had to authorize granting refugee status to persons who had not fled their country, the normal international standard. The applicants then had to make a case that if they were not granted refugee status they would be subject to persecution, or at least have a well-founded fear of persecution. The administration knew, however, that few of the youth would be able to meet that standard. It, therefore, provided another opportunity. Those not qualifying as refugees would be considered for grants of parole.
The difference between these two new programs is that, if the applicant is accepted as a refugee, taxpayer-funded transportation is provided and a large package of costly resettlement benefits are made available. Those granted parole have to pay their own way and are not eligible for the welfare programs.
Representatives of USCIS and the State Department in a conference call on October 14 disclosed that so far about 4,300 affidavits from parents seeking to have children join them have been filed. None of these Central Americans have yet entered the United States. They provided an estimate that the processing time for these programs would probably be six to nine months.
The U.S. government has ceded responsibility for determining eligibility for the new program to the International Organization for Migration. The first batch of 90 Central American youth in have been interviewed among. Only 12 percent were found eligible for refugee status and 84 percent eligible for parole. The remainder is under review.
It seems questionable that this program will have a significant impact on the illegal flow given its slowness and the small chance of winning the refugee sweepstakes.