(CNN) — The Biden administration will begin receiving requests this week from parents who wish to bring their children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to the United States, according to administration officials.
The announcement builds on an earlier administration decision to expand eligibility under the Central American Minors Program (CAM), which offers certain at-risk children from the region the opportunity to resettle in the United States. .
“The importance of expanding legal avenues and this expansion of the CAM is to allow children to apply from their homes instead of embarking on a dangerous and irregular migratory journey,” said the official.
“Tens of thousands” may be eligible for the program, an administration official said, although it is unclear how many will apply. Those eligible for the program include parents or legal guardians in the United States who are lawful permanent residents, who are in the country under Temporary Protected Status, who have been paroled in the United States, or who have applications for pending asylum filed before May 15, among others.
The reopening and expansion of the CAM program, initially launched under the Obama administration, comes in the context of a historic number of unaccompanied minors on the US-Mexico border. From October to July, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained more than 113,000 unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border.
The CAM program – which was canceled under the Trump administration – previously received criticism for being too slow, particularly in situations where children are fleeing dangerous conditions. The administration official admitted that in the past the process took between 12 and 14 months on average.
Since the resumption of the program, the Biden Administration has identified more than 3,000 cases that had been closed when the program ended. And of these, it has reopened more than 1,400 cases, although no child has yet arrived in the United States.