In an effort to better manage and stem the tide of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border to reunite with their parents, on December 3 the Department of State (DOS) launched an in-country refugee/parole program in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The program will allow certain parents who are lawfully present in the United States to request access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for their children still in one of these three countries. Children who are found ineligible for refugee admission but still at risk of harm may be considered for parole into the U.S. on a case-by-case basis. DOS also advises that, under certain circumstances, if the second parent resides with the child in the home country and is currently married to the lawfully present parent in the U.S., the second parent may be added to the child’s petition and considered for refugee status, and, if denied refugee status, for parole.
Applications for this program may be initiated by a lawfully present parent in the United States. The form (DS7699), however, must be filed with the assistance of a designated resettlement agency that works with the DOS Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to help resettle refugees here. In addition to medical and security screening, DNA relationship testing will be required to confirm the biological relationship between the parent in the United States and the in-country child. While parents do not need to pay any fee to file the form or for assistance in completing and submitting it, they are expected to cover the initial costs of DNA testing. (Costs for DNA testing are reimbursable under certain circumstances.) There are some 350 resettlement agency affiliates in more than 180 communities throughout the United States. Additional information about the program, as well as a list of the resettlement agency affiliates that can assist with filing Form DS7699 can be found on the Central American Minors page on the Refugee Processing Center website (www.wrapsnet.org/CAMProgram/tabid/420).
It is anticipated that relatively few children from Central America will be admitted to the United States as refugees in FY 2015, given the anticipated December launch and the length of time it takes to be processed for U.S. refugee admission. Any child or parent admitted as a refugee will be included in the allocations prescribed for the Latin America/Caribbean regional, which is 4,000 for FY2015. If needed, there is some flexibility within the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to accommodate a higher-than-anticipated number from Latin America in FY2015.