President Obama to use UN to help process refugees from Central America

Thousands of children have risked their lives escaping from Central America.
Thousands of children have risked their lives escaping from Central America.

The Obama administration has authorized the creation of a new refugee screening program for Central Americans fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The program would be administered by the United Nations.

Details on this new program are scarce at this point, however, similar programs have worked successfully in the past. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office is the acknowledged expert on refugee law and screening.

For more than four decades, Central America has been the scene of war, human rights violations, and states of near anarchy. In spite of the dire situation, the United States has refused to allow people trying to flee from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the opportunity to apply in their home region for refugee status. Instead, they have had to come to the United States, try to enter without authorization, and then apply for asylum. John Kerry was right in his characterization that this program could provide vulnerable refugees “a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey that many are tempted to begin, making them at that instant easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits.”

This new program, which is already in place in many other parts of the world, will be a step forward if it is honestly implemented.

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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.