Last year Hondurans, Salvadoreans, and Guatemalans comprised 75% of the immigrants detained at the South Texas Border. A large number of these immigrants were unaccompanied minors. In an effort to provide a safer alternative to the dangerous journey many minors undertake to cross the U.S. border, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security announced the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole program (CAM program). On December 1, 2014, the CAM program began accepting applications.

To be eligible for the CAM program, a “qualifying parent” must file an application on behalf of a “qualifying child”. What is a “qualifying parent?”  An individual at least 18 years or older who is lawfully present within in the U.S. under one of the following statuses: permanent resident; temporary protected status; parolee; deferred action; deferred enforced departure; or withholding of removal.

A “qualifying child” must be from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and must be under the age of 21. Also, the child must be the biological, step, or adopted child of a qualifying parent. Finally, the child must be unmarried and residing in his or her country of nationality. The CAM program requires DNA testing between the child and petitioning parent.

A parent of a qualifying child can be included in the application if he or she is part of the same household and economic unit as the child. The parent must also be legally married to the qualifying parent at the time of filing and must continue to be legally married at the time of admission or parole. This allows some in-country parents to benefit from their child’s CAM program application. However, both the qualifying child and any parent included in the application must establish refugee claims. USCIS determines the eligibility of refugee claims through interviews. If denied for refugee status, the applicants may still be considered for parole.

When announced, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte described the CAM program as a “government sanctioned border surge” that would encourage illegal aliens to enter the U.S. Other critics claimed that the program would “only exacerbate the significant problem of asylum fraud that plagues the immigration system.” Supporters of the CAM program responded that it is a solution to the humanitarian crisis faced at the U.S. border. Additionally, supporters claimed that programs such as CAM were the result of the Obama Administration efforts to address shortcomings within the immigration system. As of May 2015 USCIS was reviewing a total of 500 applications.