On the same day that Pope Francis called for an end to the “collective and arbitrary” expulsion of migrants, the U.S. bishops expressed their deep disappointment in President Donald Trump’s decision to end the parole processing system for minors seeking to enter the United States through the Central American Minors (CAM) program.
The CAM program was established by the Obama administration in 2014 in response to the surge of Central American refugees crossing the southern U.S. border. The program was designed to allow parents who already resided legally in the United States to request a renewable two-year temporary stay in the United States for their children under 21 years of age.
On August 16, the Trump administration announced that it was formally ending the program after a review process that commenced in February of this year.
Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, issued a statement opposing the decision noting, “In terminating the parole option, the Administration has unnecessarily chosen to cut off proven and safe alternatives to irregular and dangerous migration for Central American children, including those previously approved for parole who are awaiting travel in their home countries.”
The CAM program was open to migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in an effort to control the flood of unaccompanied children into the United States trying to escape violence in their home countries. In 2014 alone, more than 60,000 unaccompanied children made their way into the country causing a massive backlog in the courts.
In his statement, Vásquez praised the CAM program as a solution to that problem.
“We supported the CAM program, which included both refugee and parole options, precisely because it provided a legal and organized way for children to migrate to the United States and reunify with families,” the bishop said. “Terminating the parole program will neither promote safety for these children nor help our government regulate migration.”
Last week’s decision by the Trump administration brings an end to the efforts of 2,714 individuals who had sought conditional approval for residence under the program.
In a statement on Monday for the next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Francis wrote the “collective and arbitrary expulsions” are not “suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”
Echoing the pope’s sentiments, Vásquez stated the “Church, with its global presence, learns of this violence and persecution every day, in migrant shelters and in repatriation centers.
“We know that children must be protected. They must be given the ability to remain in their home countries and find opportunities, but they must also be able to leave and migrate safely to find protection when there are no alternatives,” the bishop said. “The CAM parole program offered part of that solution – a legal way to migrate for the most vulnerable of children.”