President Barack Obama announced an expansion of the program for Central American refugees fleeing violence in their countries of origin. This happened on the day that the Democratic National Convention included an undocumented immigrant among their opening speakers, actress Eva Longoria.
Some adults may accompany minors seeking refugee status from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras while the U.S. Government tries to discourage people from hiring “smugglers” for entering illegally.
“The goal is that people who have legitimate humanitarian problems will not undertake the perilous journey and will accept our help,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. He added that he does not know how many people could come to the United States under this extension.
Since 2011, a growing number of unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. From the start of fiscal year 2014 through July 31, 2015, 74% of the unaccompanied minors apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S.-Mexico border were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This is an extremely unsafe journey for minors to make by themselves.
So far, the program for children has received around 9,500 applications. 267 people, mainly from El Salvador, have been admitted to the United States.
Obama is expanding the program after a federal court blocked his plan to protect millions of immigrants from deportation.
Last week, the Government asked the United States Supreme Court to reconsider the first ruling on the plan once the issue stalled in court after a vote with four votes in favor and four votes against.
Immigration is playing a central role in the presidential elections in the United States. Democratic party leaders say that it should be easier for people to settle legally in the United States, while Republican party leaders are calling for the forced deportation of illegal immigrants currently residing in the country.
The Republican party approved last week a platform that supports the stance of its presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to reduce immigration into the United States. Trump argues that the immigrants take away jobs from U.S. workers.
From 1980 to 2013, the size of the Central American immigrant population grew nine-fold from 354,000 to 3.2 million. The population more than tripled in the 1980s, almost doubled in the 1990s, and continued to grow more than 56 percent between 2000 and 2013.
Immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and more recently, Honduras accounted for 90% of the total growth between 1980 and 2013, while other Central American groups showed moderate increases. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of Costa Rican and Nicaraguan immigrants actually decreased.
In 2013, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were the top three countries of origin for Central American immigrants. Together, they accounted for 85 percent of immigrants from Central America, followed by Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize.
The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration will cover the costs, said the official, Carlos Maldonado. Maldonado added there would only be up to 200 people at a time in Costa Rica under this status.
Sources: larepublica.net, migrationpolicy.org, reuters.com