Central American Minors Program (CAMs) Program

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In 2014 the U.S. State Department announced the official launch of an in-country refugee/parole program in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The program will allow certain parents who are legally present in the U.S. to apply for refugee status for their children currently living in one of the above-named three countries. Christopher Debreceni, community integration manager for the International Rescue Committee in Phoenix, discusses the program.

JOSE CARDENAS: In December 2014, the U.S. State Department announced the launch of an in-country refugee parole program in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Central American Minors Cam Program allows certain parents who are legally present in the U.S. to apply for refugee status for their children currently living in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Joining me to talk about this is Christopher Debreceni, community integration manager for the international rescue committee in Phoenix. Chris, welcome to "Horizonte."

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Thank you for having me.

JOSE CARDENAS: A lot of publicity about a year ago, about all the kids coming from these three countries and others. This is an outgrowth of that?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: This is. This is a response from the mass influx of kids coming from Central America to our southern border in 2014.

JOSE CARDENAS: And this is a way for children in that same situation to actually come to the United States and join their parents?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Correct. This is a response from assisting those youth so that they're not traveling and being subject to gangs and other violence and they have a safe but legal way to enter the United States.

JOSE CARDENAS: But this is not what we're doing with the kids who are already here?


JOSE CARDENAS: It's an entirely different program.

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Correct, these are the youth living within Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

JOSE CARDENAS: You don't have any people that have gone through it?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Based on the last notes, there were 450 applications and about 100 are ready to leave. The families are still pending.

JOSE CARDENAS: So how does it work?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: So an eligible parent who lives in the United States has one of several statuses. One of them is a lawful permanent resident, a parolee, someone who is under temporary protected status from either El Salvador or Honduras and they can petition for their child in Central America, that child has to be under 21, unmarried, and still living in nationality within those three countries.

JOSE CARDENAS: You mentioned there's several hundred applicants. How long does the process take? When will we actually see somebody come through this program?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: That's unsure. One of the things that the government has been about is this is a meticulous process so there are no mistakes. There's a big spotlight on immigration, especially from these youth so we want to make sure that the immigration is done properly and they have a path to citizenship.

JOSE CARDENAS: And by a mistake, what would be a mistake? Letting somebody in who might be a gang member or something like that?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: No, letting someone in who is not a biological or dependent of an U.S -- an adult who's eligible at that time.

JOSE CARDENAS: You talked about a spotlight? Have the events in Paris of the last weekend intensified that spotlight?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Any time there's a world event like that, it spotlights not only refugees but obviously, everyone as a whole so this particular situation has spotlighted on the refugee world.

JOSE CARDENAS: And I understand somebody's announced some plans to focus on this program?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: That is unfortunate but yes, that's true.

JOSE CARDENAS: And tell us about that.

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: As a refugee resettlement agency in Phoenix, we have been notified that a certain individual wants to come to our office and I guess talk to us for lack of a better phrase.

JOSE CARDENAS: This is the same gentleman who was demonstrating outside mosques a few months ago.

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: That would be correct.

JOSE CARDENAS: Well, your program is focused on this. Just last question. How many people do you think will actually come through and end up in Arizona?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: To be honest with you, I can't estimate a guess.

JOSE CARDENAS: But we are one of the areas where people will be relocated?

CHRISTOPHER DEBRECENI: Correct. As a resettlement agency, we are the only ones who are allowed to do the cam A.O.R. so we will be helping those families, those eligible adults that are here, petition for their children within the three countries.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about this program.


JOSE CARDENAS: Appreciate it.

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Christopher Debreceni:community integration manager

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