States Sue Biden Administration to Halt Central American Minors Reunification Program
AMARILLO, Texas — The attorneys general of eight states filed a complaint in federal court on Friday against the Biden administration’s relaunch of the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program.
The program permits some Central American children who live in dangerous conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to enter the United States as refugees or parolees. The program first launched in 2014 under the Obama administration to create an alternative for children who might otherwise seek to cross the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied.
Former President Donald Trump terminated the program in 2017, but it was eventually relaunched under President Joe Biden last September with expanded eligibility. Now, the Republican attorneys general in Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas are fighting the program in court.
“There are no lawful paths for aliens who lack status to come join other aliens who lack status in the United States — and for good reason,” the attorneys general wrote in the lawsuit. “It defies common sense. No sovereign nation would reward those who break the law by permitting family members abroad to join them in living in the sovereign territory unlawfully, particularly with the assistance of the government itself.”
Parents of children residing in the designated Central American countries must be residing legally in the U.S. under permanent resident status, temporary protected status, parole or deferred action, deferred enforced departure, or withholding of removal, according to the Department of State. To be eligible for the reunification program, the children must be under the age of 21, unmarried and provide paperwork and DNA testing to confirm their relation to their parents residing in the country.
Legal guardians of stepchildren and adopted children are also eligible for the program provided they prove their legal relationship in their application. While some applicants may be admitted under refugee status and allowed to stay in the country indefinitely, parole status allows for a child who may be inadmissible or otherwise ineligible for a visa to temporarily stay in the country for urgent humanitarian reasons.
Under Biden, the program was expanded to include children of parents who have pending asylum cases or nonimmigrant status petitions, according to the Migration Policy Institute. However, the attorneys general argue in the lawsuit that the program places an undue burden on states that are required to provide social services to the children.
“The Biden administration has sown nothing but disaster for our country through its illegal, unconstitutional immigration policies,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written statement. “Biden’s latest round of flagrant law-breaking includes his Central American Minors Program, which has contributed significantly to many states being forced to take in even more aliens. My fellow attorneys general and I are suing to stop it.”
The attorneys general also contend in their complaint that Biden lacks the authority to enact the immigration policy without congressional authorization. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, located in Amarillo.
The defendants in the suit, alongside Biden, include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ur Jaddou and Senior State Department Bureau Official Nancy Izzo Jackson. The State Department and Department of Homeland Security praised the program’s relaunch and characterized the move as a safer and more humane option to ensure the safety of migrant children who otherwise might make the perilous trek to the southern border unaccompanied.
“We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, and reuniting families,” the departments said in a joint statement. “We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States.”
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