STATEMENT – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Condemns DHS Decision to End the Central American Minors (CAM) Parole Program

For Immediate Release:
August 16, 2017

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Miji Bell
mbell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841

WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) strongly condemns today’s notice by the Department of Homeland Security to end the life-saving Central American Minors (CAM) Parole program for vulnerable child refugees from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The temporary humanitarian parole option has been a critical part of the CAM program for the past three years, providing an orderly process for children who, because of their vulnerabilities, may not be able to qualify for refugee status on their own. Since its inception on December 1, 2014, the small and controlled CAM parole option has provided critical protection to almost 3,000 children who have parents in lawful immigration status in the United States who are willing to nurture and support them.

By removing this critical lifeline for highly vulnerable children in need of protection, the Department of Homeland Security will subject children to further harm, increasing risks of trafficking and child exploitation. “Parole is a lifesaving aspect of the United States’ longstanding commitment to offer safety and protection,” according to Kay Bellor, LIRS’ Vice President for Programs. “LIRS calls on the Administration to heed our moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us—children.” LIRS holds deep concern for the safety of children in Central America and as such, supported robust implementation of the CAM program. Access to protection must be safeguarded for children who cannot wait or do not qualify for in-country processing.

The immediate end to this program places numerous children in the process of being paroled to the U.S. in danger and causes undue trauma to their parents who were finally hoping to see their children safe from harm. The stories of children LIRS and other service providers have witnessed highlight the fact that too many children’s lives hang in the balance as criminal gangs threaten their lives.

LIRS is saddened by this misguided decision. We encourage this Administration to return to policies that are consistent with America’s values of protecting family and providing safe haven to children.

###

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency 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.