Biden administration expands humanitarian program for Central American children


Washington (CNN)The Biden administration is expanding eligibility for the Central American Minors program, which affords certain at-risk children in the region the opportunity to apply to resettle in the US, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced Tuesday.

This expansion is part of the second phase of the program, which was relaunched in March after being shuttered by the Trump administration. The program aims to reunite qualified children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with their legal guardians who are living lawfully in the US.

It is one effort to find an alternative for children who might otherwise make the dangerous trip to the US to cross the border illegally, and it comes as American officials at the US-Mexico border have seen a sharp increase in unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the country in recent months.

    In March, the administration began to process eligible applications that had been closed when the program was terminated in 2017. Under the second phase, eligibility for the program will be open to several categories of qualified parents or legal guardians, who can petition to have children join them in the US.

      Changes will “dramatically expand access” to the Central American Minors program, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a joint statement.

          “We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, as well as providing a legal alternative to irregular migration,” they said.

          Roberta Jacobson, the coordinator for the southern border, said earlier this year that when the program was ended by the Trump administration, it left “around 3,000 children already approved for travel stranded.”

            CNN’s Devan Cole, Betsy Klein and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.