The humanitarian program for children in Central America is slow going under Biden, according to the report

The bottlenecks, long wait times and lack of support from lawyers that have plagued the program since its inception have yet to be resolved, the report found.

Earlier this year, the White House announced it would restart and expand the program as part of its strategy to address humanitarian need and promote legal immigration access to the US. The Trump administration announced the end of the program in 2017.

The Central American Refugee and Conditional Minors Program (CAM program), which was relaunched in March 2021, allows certain US parents and legal guardians to request their children or eligible relatives from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador to join them. USA

As a result of the administration’s inability to address long-standing problems, “many eligible families are unable to even submit CAM applications and thousands of people wait indefinitely to be reunited with their families in the United States,” the report says.

The report says migrant encounters along the US-Mexico border have so far exceeded 2 million, and several Republican governors have taken it upon themselves to move migrants north as a political challenge. The CAM program was created under the Obama administration as a way to discourage at-risk migrant children from making the perilous journey north.

Since the program restarted in March 2021, only a few hundred of the nearly 3,800 families have completed their cases, according to the report.

All of these were requests submitted by former Trump before the end of the program.

“At current processing rates, it will likely take more than a decade before everyone who applied between 2014 and 2017 has their cases processed,” the report concluded.

Since the launch of the second phase, allowing new applications, IRAP is not aware of anyone who has submitted a new application who has been reunited with their family in the US through the program.

CNN contacted the Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department and the White House about the report.

“It’s really positive that the Biden administration is restarting and continuing to defend this program. But now it has to make it work,” said Lacy Broemel, a policy analyst at IRAP, a refugee advocacy and legal aid organization that supports the CAM program. .

the bottles

Bottles begin at the beginning of the application process, which requires one of nine U.S. resettlement agencies to submit an initial application form to the State Department, meaning parents cannot apply on their own.

In most cases, resettlement agencies do not receive funding for their work on these applications for administrative reasons. These agencies are already facing funding and staffing shortages and cannot provide sufficient access to the number of applications they receive, with some agencies having waiting lists of more than 300 to 500 people to submit an initial application, according to the report.

Children wait more than a year for a decision

IRAP says it is aware of several children who have been waiting for a decision for about a year.

Delays in DNA testing and other issues have slowed the time it takes to make a decision and reunite children with their parents.

In the first edition of the program, about 2,000 cases were being interviewed every three months and the average time to process cases was 331 days from the time an application to travel to the United States was submitted to the State Department, according to the report. Comparable data was not available, IRAP found, in part due to the limited number of applications submitted and processed.

The lack of transparency about the program is one of the main concerns IRAP has heard from parents, Broemel told CNN.

For example, parents don’t know when their child can be interviewed or how long they’ll have to wait after an interview to reunite their child in the U.S., according to Broemel.

“There is a very, very big gap in terms of transparency with parents, which causes a lot of concern and fear,” he said.

Legal help is wanted

Central American children are not allowed to have a lawyer present during interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration Officers, which IRAP believes can lead to unfair results.

The advocacy organization hopes that access to counseling can help address some transparency concerns, allowing parents to better understand deadlines and what to expect in the process, Broemel said.

Broemel noted that the Biden administration has said it wants to increase access to counseling for all refugees going through a resettlement process.