Refugee program unsettles GOP
WASHINGTON — The government will begin a program in December to grant refugee status to some people under the age of 21 who live in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and whose parents legally reside in the United States.
Parents will be able to ask authorities free of charge for refugee status for their children in the Central American countries, which are plagued by poverty and vicious gang violence. The program does not apply to minors who have arrived here illegally.
Vice President Joe Biden announced the program Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank, where the presidents of the three Central American countries will present a plan to stem child migration from their countries.
American officials said that children deemed refugees will be able to work immediately upon arrival, opt for permanent residency the following year and for naturalization five years later.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., criticized the plan, which he described as a “government-sanctioned border surge” if Obama acts as expected.
“The policy announced today could open Pandora’s box, allowing potentially even more people to come to the United States. This is bad policy and undermines the integrity of our immigration system,” Goodlatte said in a news release.
The program aims to be a legal and safe alternative to the long and dangerous journey some Central American children take north to reach the United States. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied child and teenage migrants showed up at the border this year.