WASHINGTON, DC – Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is encouraged by this week’s announcement by the Obama Administration that it will expand the Central American Minors (CAM) program and create an in-country refugee referral program. These advancements will allow more Central American refugees to be admitted to the United States to live in safety and start new lives.
The in-country referral program represents the Administration’s recognition of the need for many paths to protection for those in the region, and a concrete step toward increased protection mechanisms for Central Americans. This program appropriately reflects who we are as Americans. We cannot turn away refugees seeking protection and safety. Instead, we must welcome them with open arms.
Similarly, the expanded CAM program will make it possible for more vulnerable children to join family here in our nation and have the opportunity to live normal lives. Increasing the number of eligible applicants and beneficiaries in the program must go hand-in-hand with a commensurate increase in protection mechanisms within the program. Our experience tell us that if the government does not move expeditiously to implement processes that increase the protections for individuals in the CAM program, which includes decreasing the application and processing times, we will continue to see unfortunate consequences: children abandoning their claims and being kidnapped, killed, or raped while traveling north in search of safety.
“LIRS is pleased that the Administration has heeded our call for a more robust welcome for Central American refugees and asylum-seekers who are coming to the United States in search of safety and freedom from fear,” said Linda Hartke, president and CEO of LIRS. “While this is a big step in the right direction, we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Administration to reshape the overall policy for the treatment of these vulnerable individuals which includes an end to detaining parents and their children and halting policies that result in the separation of families.”
Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. It is nationally recognized for its leadership advocating with refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through more than 75 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.