Refugee Applications Available for Central American Children of Lawfully Present Parents

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Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan parents residing legally in the U.S. can now apply for refugee status on behalf of children residing in their home country.
Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan parents residing legally in the U.S. can now apply for refugee status on behalf of children residing in their home country.

The last two weeks of November saw several new immigration programs beyond the headline grabbers of work permits for 3 to 5 million undocumented. One smaller initiative is the new “In Country Refugee/Parole Program for Minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras” program. This initiative is designed to head off a repeat of the experience earlier this year of thousands of children arriving at the border.

The ”In Country Refugee” program allows parents lawfully present in the U.S. of children currently living in those three countries to file a request for the U.S. State Department to interview their children for possible admission to the United States as refugees. To apply, the parent must legally reside in the United States. The “lawfully present” parent will typically have U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence (LPR), or temporary protected status (TPS).

If the parent is undocumented or has DACA, he or she cannot apply for the child.

Applications are initiated in the U.S. by the lawfully present parent. After the application is filed, the child will be contacted by the International Organization for Migration. After the child is prescreened by that agency, the Department of Homeland Security will interview the child to determine eligibility for refugee status and admission to the United States.

Those children who are denied refugee status may still be granted a special humanitarian parole allowing them to come to the United States if the child is determined to be at risk of harm.

Although this is a new development for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, similar United States programs have existed for years in countries outside Latin America.

We expect this new program to begin this month.

More information can be found here.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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