The number of Central American children the federal government has intentionally brought to the United States under the president's newly launched Central American Minors (CAM) Program has more than quintupled in the last two and a half months, rising from just 48 in early February to 241 by May 1, according to the most recent data from President Obama’s State Department.
First launched by President Obama in December of 2014 as part of his executive actions on immigration, the CAM program was designed as a “safe” way for Central American children with family living in the United States to be brought into the country without having to make the dangerous trek to the Southwest U.S. border, where many cross unlawfully. Under the program, children are screened and processed in their home country before being brought to the United States to be reunited with their families.
If the child does not qualify as a “refugee” under the federal government’s narrow definition, they can be granted “parole” into the United States at the discretion of the administration.
Under the CAM guidelines, adults living unlawfully in the United States who qualify for deferred action under Obama’s temporary amnesty programs can legally apply to have their children brought to the United States under this program, despite having no legal status themselves.
According to the New York Times, not a single child had been brought to the United States under the program as of November. As of Feb. 17, MRCTV reported the federal government had brought a modest 48 unaccompanied minors to the United States under the CAM program.
But as of May 1, less than three months later, the State Department reports they have brought 241 children into the United States via the program, a State Department spokesperson told MRCTV in an email.
Of these, 170 children are from El Salvador, 64 are from Honduras, and seven are from Guatemala.
The program has also seen a dramatic rise in the number of applications it has received, up from 6,722 in February to 8,319 as of May 1. A total of 7,180 applications have been submitted for children from El Salvador, 180 applications are from Guatemala, and 959 are from Honduras.
The spokesperson also told MRCTV, “To date, the Department has performed its initial screening of more than 5,000 of these applicants, and [the Department of Homeland Security] has completed more than 1,000 final interviews” – up from only 90 interviews DHS had completed as of last October.
The new numbers coincide with a new report released by the Center for Immigration Studies Monday, revealing the Obama administration requested more than $1.3 billion in funding for resettling unaccompanied alien children in the president’s FY2017 budget proposal, including more than $1.2 billion in base funding plus $95 million in contingency funds.
Those funds -- which must first be approved by a GOP-controlled Congress -- will also be used to process and resettle the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors still streaming across the Southwest U.S. border, a total that is expected to reach or exceed 75,000 in FY2017.
So far, 27,754 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first five months of FY2016, just shy of the 28,579 apprehended during that same time period in FY2014.