STATEMENT – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) Condemns Administration’s Decision to End Life-Saving Central American Minors (CAM) Program, Placing Children from the Northern Triangle in Critical Danger

For Immediate Release:
November 9, 2017

MEDIA CONTACT:
Danielle Bernard
dbernard@lirs.org; 410-230-2888

Perry Sacks
psacks@mrss.com; 908-917-7097

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, the U.S. State Department announced that it is ending the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program as of tonight, November 9, 2017. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the country, is deeply troubled by this decision. The CAM program provides critical protection for children in life-threatening situations who were living in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle). Taking away this life-saving program will put the children from this region in further danger and at increased risk of exploitation.

This news comes on the heels of the Trump Administration’s announcement earlier this week to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Nicaraguans, with further decisions expected to come for TPS holders from Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador. Like the CAM program, the TPS program has allowed holders to flee temporary armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other dangerous conditions, and find safety.

“Ending the Central American Minors program goes against what our nation stands for,” said Linda Hartke, president and CEO of LIRS. “This program has been critical in bringing much needed protection by granting refugee status to thousands of children and eligible family members who were in danger. Each day, children in Central America are threatened, assaulted, and killed – as are their siblings and grandparents – in an effort by gangs and drug cartels to force them to join or die.  As people of faith, we must not turn our back on these children who need this vital protection and have been separated from their parents who are legally present in the U.S., particularly at a time when conditions in the Northern Triangle have worsened.”

In addition to the nearly 3,000 children who have come through the CAM program or the humanitarian parole program, which was already terminated in August 2017, thousands of others have been interviewed and await determinations of their refugee claims in their home countries. Since its inception in 2014, the CAM program has allowed children to travel lawfully to the U.S. and avoid potential risks of exploitation and abuse on their journey through Central America and Mexico. Reports through Refugee Council USA (RCUSA), a coalition of organizations dedicated to refugee protection and welcome, found that children waiting for processing experienced great harm, including murder, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and being targeted for their organs.

Children admitted to our country under the CAM program undergo a thorough vetting process with multiple steps that often takes, on average, more than one year. Once the children are admitted, they are reunited with their parent(s) already here in the U.S., who have lawful immigration status and are able to support them.

Hartke added, “Communities of faith nationwide have consistently denounced policies that leave children in harm’s way and tear families apart. We at LIRS call on the administration to reassess this decision. The CAM program provides a critical lifeline to Honduran, El Salvadoran, and Guatemalan children in danger. Eliminating it is severely inconsistent with our values as a country.”

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Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.