The program begun under Obama reunites children from Latin America’s so-called Northern Triangle with a parent already and legally in the United States.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Condemning the last administration for turning its back on Latin American refugees, the White House announced the resumption Wednesday of an immigration initiative geared at children fleeing dangerous countries.
The Central American Minors Program had started under President Obama, allowing parents who had legally immigrated to the United States from the so-called Northern Triangle to request refugee or parole status for children they had left behind.
When President Trump ended the program in 2017, among the first actions of his single term, more than 3,000 children lost conditional approval to reunite in the United States with a parent.
Roberta Jacobson, who is National Security Council coordinator for the southern border, told reporters Wednesday that President Biden is restarting the program as part of a larger strategy to improve the immigration system.
Emphasizing that illegal immigration is a problem born from desperation, Jacobson said Biden wants to ensure that children from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are able to get to the United States safely while officials work to solve the corruption and other problems that has forced them to flee in the first place.
“Going forward we will look for ways to continue to provide legal avenues in the region for people needing protection while we continue to enforce our laws,” said Jacobson, whose former tenure as U.S. ambassador to Mexico began under Obama and ended in 2018.
Biden has committed to seeking $4 billion from Congress over the next four years to address the root causes of migration — corruption, poverty and transnational criminal organizations — while spurring economic development through private sector investment and community-driven outreach.
“The funds we’re asking for from Congress don’t go to government leaders, they go to communities … to the people who otherwise migrate in search of hope,” Jacobson explained.
Trump not only neglected the immigration system, the former ambassador remarked, he “intentionally made it worse.”
Since 2017, Trump signed more than 400 immigration-related executive actions. Biden’s work so far to unravel those actions has focused on ending construction of the border wall, preserving the program called DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and ending policies like the Muslim travel ban and remain-in-Mexico directive. Biden has also been working to reunite the thousands of families separated at the border.
Democrats in Congress, too, have plans to enact broad immigration reforms using their majority in the House and Senate. Last month in the House, they introduced a bill known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which includes a measure that could put some 11 million immigrants on an eight-year track to U.S. citizenship.