(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration announced on Friday a plan to create a new refugee/parole program for children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras whose parents are legal residents of the United States.
“This program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries,” the State Department said in a news release. The department added that “[c]hildren who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole on a case-by-case basis.”
The State Department said the new, in-country program is a “safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.”
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, refugee status is reserved for people fleeing their home country due to “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”
But under the new program, a child who doesn’t qualify as a refugee might still come to the United States.
“Applicants found by DHS to be ineligible for refugee status in the United States will be considered on a case-by-case basis for parole, which is a mechanism to allow someone who is otherwise inadmissible to come to the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” the State Department said.
“Humanitarian parole” is a category found under Section 212.5 of the INA that allows a non-U.S. citizen entrance into the United States on a temporary basis due to “urgent humanitarian reasons” or “significant public benefit.” In the past, this status has been granted to persons with serious medical needs, pregnant women and to some Cuban citizens.
“An individual considered for parole may be eligible for parole if DHS finds that the individual is at risk of harm, he/she clears all background vetting, there is no serious derogatory information, and someone has committed to financially support the individual while he/she is in the United States,” the State Department said in the news release.
Under the new program, parents of a “paroled” child will need to pay the cost of the child’s medical clearance and travel to the United States.
“Parole is temporary and does not confer any permanent legal immigration status or path to permanent legal immigration status in the United States,” the State Department said, adding that these children “are not eligible for medical and other benefits upon arrival in the United States, but are eligible to attend school and/or apply for employment authorization.”
Parole is granted on an initial period of two years with an option to renew, the State Department added.
In order to be considered for the new program, the child must undergo a pre-screening interview, DNA testing to confirm parentage and an interview to determine if he or she qualifies for refugee status, the State Department said. They must also undergo “security checks” and a medical screening.
If the child is approved for admission into the U.S., the child’s parent(s) must sign a form agreeing to repay the cost of his or her travel to the United States, according to the State Department.
“Approved refugees will be eligible for the same support provided to all refugees resettled in the United States, including assignment to a resettlement agency that will assist with reception and placement, and assistance registering children in school,” the news release said.
The State Department emphasized that the new program will not be available to illegal alien parents who are currently in the United States.
“The refugee/parole program will not be a pathway for undocumented parents to bring their children to the United States, but instead, the program will provide certain vulnerable, at-risk children an opportunity to be reunited with parents lawfully resident in the United States.”
Under the current process, permanent legal residents of the United States must petition for their children under age 21 to be brought to the U.S. The child would then also become a legal U.S. resident.
However, due to limits Congress has placed on how many relatives of legal residents may enter the United States each year, the process often include lengthy waiting periods of several years.