U.S. expands immigration initiatives for Central American refugees and children

The U.S. government announced today that it will expand its current Central American Minors Refugee Program (CAM).

The expansion will allow petitions to be accepted from older siblings, biological parents and caregivers of Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran minors whose parents are legally living in the United States.

The CAM program was established in 2014 to allow lawful permanent resident parents to bring their unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States by filing a petition through the Refugee Admissions Program, preventing the children from risking their lives in a dangerous journey north.

The expansion includes the creation of three new categories of adults who may apply for refugee status under CAM, provided they are accompanying a qualifying minor:

- Siblings 21 years of age or older who have a parent living legally in the United States

- Biological parents of the qualified child who are in the country (for example, if the child has a father in the United States, he could be accompanied by his mother, or vice versa).

- Responsible for a qualifying child who also has family ties to the parent legally based in the U.S. (such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents)

Since CAM was implemented, the government has received approximately 9,500 applications. To date, approximately 3,480 cases have been approved and 600 minors have entered the United States under the program.


As part of a series of humanitarian migration initiatives, Costa Rica also announced today that it has reached an agreement to provide temporary refuge in its country to Guatemalan, Salvadoran and Honduran minors who have submitted applications for the CAM program.

Under the terms of the agreement between Costa Rica, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), if there are applicants to the CAM program in need of immediate protection, those minors would be transferred to Costa Rica, where they would be processed as refugees before being sent to the United States. A maximum of 200 persons could be housed by Costa Rica every six months.

The United States will also establish a new program where vulnerable people can be interviewed by Department of Homeland Security agents in their home countries to be considered as refugees.