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Relaunching the Central American Minors Program: Opportunities to Enhance Child Safety and Family Reunification
Reports
December 2021

Relaunching the Central American Minors Program: Opportunities to Enhance Child Safety and Family Reunification

The Central American Minors (CAM) Program was created to allow certain children living in dangerous conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to enter the United States as refugees or parolees to join their parents. The program sought to create a safe, legal, and orderly alternative for children who might otherwise seek to enter the United States by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied. The program began in 2014, the Trump administration announced its termination in 2017, and the Biden administration relaunched it with expanded eligibility in 2021.

This report takes a critical look at lessons learned from the program’s earlier iteration and offers recommendations for how to strengthen the relaunched version. It examines, among other things, eligibility criteria, program administration, safety provisions for children awaiting a decision on their case, and the assistance children have access to after they arrive in the United States.

“Even with substantial improvements,” the authors write, “it is doubtful that the CAM Program will ever be able to assist more than a small fraction of children who face danger in northern Central America and have parents or close relatives in the United States. Still, with improvements, the program can help significantly greater numbers of children and families seeking relief and family reunification.”

Para leer este reporte en español, haga clic aquí.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  How the CAM Program Worked
A. General Case Processing
B. Determining Refugee or Parolee Status
C. Costs for Families
D. Security and Protection Measures

3  Termination of the CAM Program

4  Reinitiating the CAM Program in 2021

5  Data on CAM Program Applicants and Outcomes

6  Program Challenges and Recommendations for Improvement
A. Who Should Be Eligible for CAM Program Assistance?
B. How Can Program Administration Be Improved?
C. How Can the Program Do More to Help Children Be Safe While Awaiting a Decision or Travel?
D. How Can Assistance for Children Arriving as Parolees Be Increased?
E. How Can Transparency and Information about Program Performance Be Strengthened?

7  Conclusion