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CHSI Blog Post: The Biden Administration Expands the (Illegal) Central American Minors Program

June 16, 2021

By John A. Zadrozny

The Biden Administration’s “America Last” train rolls on.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced their latest phase in the restoration of the Obama Administration-created Central American Minors (CAM) program. Their joint press release states that it is not only “continu[ing] to reopen cases that were closed when CAM was terminated in 2018,” but will also be expanding eligibility for the program. It will now allow aliens (who may be here temporarily or illegally) to petition for their children who are Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran nationals to be flown to the United States – at taxpayer expense. The program will now also let aliens who are applying for U visas to avail themselves of the CAM program. By their own admission, these “changes will dramatically expand access to the CAM program,” and will be part of the administration’s “expansion of legal pathways” into the United States.

But a closer look at the CAM program turns up several fundamental flaws. Let’s walk through several of its deficiencies:

  • Legality. Simply stated, the CAM program is not authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) or any other act of Congress. The authority (parole) that DHS is using to bring people into the United States is an unlawful categorical use of parole authority. While the federal government can use regulations and other tools to support statutory obligations and requirements, it cannot make something up out of thin air that contravenes other statutory obligations and requirements. The CAM program falls short in several respects, including the fact that it treats illegal presence in the United States identically to legal presence. Parole does not lead to an immigration status, and puts these aliens in a quasi-legal status. The Biden Administration should at least have the integrity to pursue reimplementation of the CAM program through regulation, which would allow appropriate public comment and review and, if necessary, judicial review.

  • Unnecessary. Pursuant to the INA, the federal government has explicit authority to admit appropriately screened foreign nationals into the United States as refugees. What this means is any minors that are eligible for refugee status can be screened under current law and with existing tools, but that they must be screened outside of the United States. The Biden Administration appears to be relaunching the CAM program in order to bring these minors to the United States before any sort of adjudication occurs. They do so knowing that the vast majority of these minors will not qualify for admission. This is dishonest.

  • Fraud. The new “legal guardian” standard mentioned in the press release by Blinken and Mayorkas could become truck-sized loophole that will allow virtually anyone to assert legal guardianship with little to no scrutiny. We are basing this on the federal bureaucracy’s horrendous track record of engaging in such scrutiny in other immigration contexts, including the Department of Health and Human Services’ complete failure to screen individuals seeking to sponsor unaccompanied alien children. Fraud is arguably already rife in the refugee and asylum spaces, and this will only make it worse.

  • The border. Perhaps most importantly, the reinvigoration of the CAM program will not stop the mass influx of foreign nationals into the United States through our open southern border, and will likely make it worse. If the Biden Administration claims they are resurrecting the CAM program to reduce the volume of people seeking asylum at our southern border, it will not hold water for two important reasons. First, the CAM program only reinforces the administration’s “please come” message, and anything other than a “do not come” message will only swell volume. And second, individuals with weak (or fraudulent) claims will still be unlikely to avail themselves of the CAM program, which means they will still make the trans-Mexico journey and take their chances at the border.

The bottom line: Instead of upholding the rule of law and securing our border, the Biden Administration is taking another dangerous step through the re-imposition of the CAM program that will invite more and more illegal aliens to the United States. During a historic crisis, the Administration has done the unthinkable – they have created yet another magnet for illegal immigration. This program was without merit and legal authority during the Obama Administration, and it remains so today. And, like the Obama Administration, it is the latest step in its efforts to create a critical mass for a future amnesty.