On August 16, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it was terminating the Central American Minors (CAM) Parole Program.
On December 1, 2014, DHS and The Department of State (DOS) announced the creation of the CAM Refugee Program and the CAM Parole Program. The CAM Refugee Program allows certain parents who were lawfully present in the United States to request refugee status for their children and certain other family members residing in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This program was created in an effort to provide an alternative to the dangerous journey many children undertake to flee violence in their home country and reunite with parents in the United States. Applicants who were denied refugee status through the CAM Refugee Program were automatically considered for parole by DHS through the CAM Parole Program as an alternative way to enter the United States lawfully. The CAM Refugee Program remains in place, but as of August 16, the CAM Parole Program is no longer available. Qualifying parents may still request access to the CAM Refugee Program for their children and other family members through a resettlement agency designated by DOS.
What was the authority for the CAM Parole Program?
INA § 212(d)(5)(A) establishes broad discretionary authority for DHS to parole non-citizens into the United States temporarily on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. The CAM Parole Program was established because it was determined there were “significant public benefit” reasons to offer another means of entry to children who were not admitted to the CAM Refugee Program. When a child’s or other family member’s request for refugee status was denied, the denial notice indicated whether the applicant had been conditionally approved for parole under the CAM Parole Program. Conditional approval meant that travel documents would be issued to allow the applicant to travel to a port-of-entry to request parole from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that has final decision-making authority about parole at the border. Parole allows an individual to remain temporarily in the United States and apply for employment authorization. A person who has been paroled into the United States is authorized to stay in the United States until the period of parole expires or parole is otherwise terminated. Having been paroled into the United States does not constitute an “admission” into the United States. See INA §§ 212(d)(5)(A) and 101(a)(13)(B).
How is the program being terminated?
As of August 16, 2017, USCIS is no longer considering or approving parole under the CAM Parole Program. If a request for refugee status is denied, there is no appeal, but the applicant may submit a Request for Review of their denied refugee case from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Requests for Review must be postmarked or received by USCIS within 90 days of the date of the denial. More information on the Request for Review process can be found here. Individuals with conditional parole approval, who have not yet traveled, will be given notice that their conditional approval has been rescinded. If a person with conditional parole approval has paid for a medical exam or for travel expenses, their parole will be rescinded, but they may be able to receive a refund for those costs. Individuals who did not file a Request for Review because they had been given conditional parole approval and planned to travel to the United States, but who have now received rescission notices, have 90 days from the date of the rescission to submit a Request for Review.
What does this mean for CAM parolees who are already in the United States?
The parole period of a person who was paroled into the United States under the CAM Parole Program does not terminate as a result of this announcement. It will remain valid until the period of parole expires or until some other basis for termination occurs such as departure from the United States. Individuals who were paroled into the United States under the CAM Parole Program will not be able to renew their parole under the CAM Parole Program when it expires. Instead, CAM parolees may seek Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit parole by filing Form I-131 for consideration by the USCIS International Operations Division. These requests for parole are considered on a case-by-case basis. The applicant must show that there are urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for him or her to remain in the United States and that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. USCIS provides guidance on requesting Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit parole here. In addition, CAM parolees should be screened carefully for eligibility for other immigration benefits, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum.