Program To Give Refugee Status To Central American Children

By Jude Joffe-Block
September 30, 2014

PHOENIX — A new White House plan would allow some Central American children to come to the United States legally with refugee status, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

According to AP, the program would allow Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants who are legally present in the U.S. to request refugee status for child relatives still back at home.

The White House released a memo to the secretary of state on Tuesday allowing for the admission of 70,000 refugees in fiscal year 2015. It also listed people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as eligible for admission to the U.S. as refugees "if otherwise qualified." The list also included people from Cuba, Iraq and Eurasia and the Baltics. 

Gladis Molina is a lawyer for the nonprofit Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and represents children in immigration court. Molina called this announcement “wonderful news.”

“Because the children will not have to face the journey of danger along Mexico and the border between the United States and Mexico to make it to their families,” Molina said.

Also on Tuesday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement announced a plan to give out $9 million for legal service providers to represent 2,600 unaccompanied child migrants in immigration court in several cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston.

Molina said this will allow the Florence Project to apply for much-needed funding to hire more attorneys who can represent child migrants in deportation proceedings.

Most children in deportation proceedings are not provided with an attorney, and there are not enough free legal service providers to meet the demand.

UPDATED 9:44 p.m.