(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced the "resettlement" of children and adults from several Central America countries in the United States, after a “pre-screen” interview in Costa Rica and “processing” by the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR.
The announcement said Costa Rica agreed to enter into a protection transfer arrangement (PTA) with the U.N. and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and that the U.S. is expanding its already existing Central American Minors program to accommodate more children and some adults from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“Through the Central American Minors [CAM] program, the U.S. government offers an alternative, safe, and legal path to the United States for children seeking protection from harm or persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. “Today, we are expanding these resettlement opportunities to additional vulnerable individuals within the region.”
“This will increase the number of individuals to whom we are able to provide humanitarian protection while combating human smuggling operations,” Johnson said.
The announcement also said some minors could come directly to the United States after being screened and interviewed in their home country by DHS officials.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) issued his own statement on Tuesday, criticizing the announcement as a “bad idea” that will not solve the ongoing influx of illegal alien children across the U.S. border and could even allow terrorists to enter the United States.
“We absolutely need to be doing everything we can to control the unaccompanied alien children crisis, but the CAM program is a band-aid for a much-deeper wound,” said Vitter, who is chairman of the Senate Border Security Caucus. “Allowing even more otherwise ineligible immigrants into the United States is not a way to protect these children or American citizens.”
“It’s a known fact that Under the CAM program, illegal immigrants benefitting from President Obama’s executive amnesty are eligible for the program, allowing them to put down even more roots in the U.S.,” Vitter said, noting that in fiscal year 2014 some 68,500 unaccompanied alien children were apprehended crossing the U.S. border.
“Expanding the program is a bad idea and will not solve this immigration problem,” Vitter said.
Vitter said at least one of the radical Islamic terrorists involved in the November 2015 attack in Paris, France entered that country as a Syrian refugee and that the same thing could happen here.
“The U.S. government does not have the capacity to properly vet every incoming refugee, and terrorist organizations can take advantage of the major shortfalls in the refugee process,” the press release accompanying Vitter’s statement said.
In addition, DHS and the State Department announced that new categories of people – not only children -- eligible for “resettlement” are now in place.
“The United States is also pleased to announce an expansion of our existing Central American Minors program, which currently provides children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras with a safe and orderly alternative to the dangerous, irregular journey that some children are currently undertaking to reach the United States,” the announcement states.
“As of today, the United States has received more than 9,500 applications for this program, which allows a lawfully-present parent within the United States to request refugee status for their children located in one of these three countries,” said the two departments. “When accompanied by a qualified child, the following additional categories of applicants may also be considered under this program:
- sons and daughters of a U.S.-based lawfully-present parent who are over 21 years old;
- the in-country biological parent of the qualified children;
- caregivers of qualified children who are also related to the U.S.-based lawfully present parents.
The announcement also said some children who are transferred to Costa Rica could be resettled in a third country, if not in the United States.