By Jen Riddle
Last December, the Department of State (DOS) launched its new Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee/Parole Program for parents who are lawfully present in the United States in a qualifying status to request that their children residing in El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras be admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Children found not to be eligible for refugee status but still at risk of harm may be granted parole on a case-by-case basis. To apply, qualifying parents must make an appointment with a DOS-designated refugee resettlement agency. Only designated resettlement agencies can file the Form DS-7699 Affidavit of Relationship. While legal service providers cannot assist clients in submitting the form, they can and should inform clients about the CAM program, help identify parents who appear to meet the eligibility criteria, and refer them to the appropriate resettlement agency. Below are some specific suggestions of how your program can help.
Collaborate with the local refugee resettlement agency and other partners
If you haven’t already, meet with the resettlement agency in your area to find out how they prefer to receive referrals. If you are not certain which designated resettlement agency serves refugees in your county, consult the state-by-state directory located at http://www.wrapsnet.org (click on “CAM Program”). Does the resettlement agency conduct intake for the CAM program on certain days or times? Is there a particular staff member to whom potential applicants should be directed? Ask the resettlement agencies how you can make referrals in a way that helps them help applicants apply. Also, consider whether there is room for engagement or collaboration with your State Refugee Coordinator.
Educate your clients and the community
Make sure clients and community members understand that only a designated refugee resettlement agency can submit the form on their behalf and warn them against falling prey to fraud perpetrated by notarios or others who claim they can assist. You can customize this educational flyer that describes the program in English and Spanish. If your organization conducts DACA and DAPA information sessions, share resources about the program at those events. Keep in mind that many Central Americans may not be familiar with the refugee resettlement program or the types of claims that our government recognizes as warranting refugee status. Consider also sharing information about the CAM program with social workers, city and county agencies, and social service providers that work with Central American immigrant communities.
Help identify those who might qualify for the program
Consider adding questions related to eligibility for the CAM program to your existing screening tools used during initial intake or at workshops. Can you search your data base for clients from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala and reach out to them? Remember that while the parent does not need to be a national of one of these countries, the qualifying child does. Pay particular attention when working with clients who already have one of the qualifying types of lawful presence - LPR, TPS, parole, deferred action, deferred enforcement departure, and withholding of removal. Remember that deferred action recipients include DACA grantees, those granted deferred action as VAWA self-petitioners and derivatives, and those awaiting U visa status. If you represent unaccompanied children, share information about the program with their sponsors and family members. Be sure to explain to interested parents that the minor children of their children can be derivative beneficiaries and that a legal spouse may also be able to accompany the child if he or she is found to have an independent refugee claim.
Don’t forget about the option of parole
Stay tuned for more information about implementation of the parole component of the program for applicants who are interviewed but found not to qualify as refugees. DOS has stated that such individuals may be paroled by DHS on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. However, very little information has been released about the process so far. As implementation of the program progresses, there will be children who attend in-country interviews but are denied refugee status. At that time, legal service providers may be able to assist the parent in submitting the requisite Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documentation to USCIS.
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