(CNSNews.com) -- While some of President Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty programs are still awaiting the green light from the courts before being implemented, others are moving full-steam ahead, including the president’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole (CAM) Program, which allows certain illegal aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to petition for their children still living in these three countries to be brought to the United States.
As of March 23, 248 cases representing 290 individuals had been filed for consideration in the CAM program since the federal government first began accepting applications on Dec. 1 of last year, a State Department official told CNSNews.com.
As of Feb. 9, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had only received 25 applications for the CAM, according to a USCIS official at the time. In the six weeks since then, that number has increased by nearly ten times.
Among the total 290 individuals now applying for the program, 219 are from El Salvador, 60 are from Honduras and 10 are from Guatemala, the State Department spokesperson said.
Speaking on background, the spokesperson added that “as of today, no applications have yet been approved,” but that “initial interviews have been conducted for 160 individuals but other steps remain.”
The spokesperson added that “processing is projected to take between 8-12 months.”
The USCIS website describes the CAM program as a “safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children are currently undertaking to the United States.” Potential applicants can include illegal aliens who have been granted deferred action, deferred enforced departure or have been granted “withholding of removal.”
The State Department also stated in the announcement of the program in November that “under certain circumstances, if the second parent resides with the child in the home country and is currently married to the lawfully present parent in the United States, the second parent may be added to the child’s petition and considered for refugee status, and if denied refugee status, for parole.”
The day the CAM program was announced, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued a press release calling the initiative a “government-sanctioned border surge” that would “open Pandora’s box” and encourage even more illegal aliens to come to the United States or overstay their visas in hopes of being granted deferred action.
“The policy announced by the Obama Administration today is simply a government-sanctioned border surge,” Goodlatte said in a press release at the time.
“Under this abusive new policy, unlawful immigrants in the United States, once they are granted executive amnesty by the President, can now rely on the Obama Administration to bring their child, and possibly their spouse, who are in Central America to our country,” he continued.
If President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) Program is cleared by the courts and implemented, up to five million more illegal aliens could be granted “deferred action” status and become be eligible for CAM consideration. The DAPA program is currently being blocked by a court injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen on Feb. 17.
Other parents who may qualify for CAM benefits are permanent residents, parolees and those under Temporary Protected Status.
CNSNews.com asked the State Department for a breakdown of applicants according to the parents’ legal statuses. The spokesperson said that “data broken out by parental status is not currently available.”
If a child is accepted into the program, he or she will be granted “refugee” status in the United States, according to a USCIS spokesperson. The child can then "adjust" their status to Permanent Resident Alien after one year, and apply for citizenship status after five.
“The child who is approved under the CAM Program is placed in refugee status,” the spokesperson explained. “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.
“Refugees remain in that status for 12 months,” the spokesperson added. “After 12 months, they are required to adjust their status to that of Permanent Resident Alien. They can apply for citizenship after having been resident in the United States for five years.”
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.”
According to USCIS, children who are not granted refugee status under the CAM program will be considered on a “case-by-case” basis for parole into the United States,
Under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, parole can be granted temporarily to certain individuals for “urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”