by Christopher White
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. It was designed to allow parents who already resided legally in the U.S. to request a renewable two-year temporary stay here for their children under 21 years of age.
On Aug. 16, the Trump administration announced that it was formally ending the program after a review process that commenced in February.
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 U.S. 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, Bishop 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, Pope 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, Bishop Vásquez stated: “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.”
Christopher White, the newest member of The Tablet staff, also writes for Crux website.