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President Obama approves plan to allow some children from Central America to apply for refugee status

by: Justin Burton

The plan, outlined in a memorandum circulated to the State Department on September 30, 2014, would establish in-country refugee processing and allow some lawfully present relatives to request U.S. refugee resettlement for children. The plan will allocate a total of 70,000 refugee visas, setting aside 4,000 slots for all applicants from Latin America and the Caribbean. The memo signals the government’s intention to launch “in-country” processing centers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The plan was created largely in response to the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the United States border this summer, fleeing violence in their home country. Under the U.S. immigration laws, refugees are people fleeing their country of origin based on fears of persecution by reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. It appears that most children may be able to qualify in the “social group” classification. The in-country processing would allow children to determine if they qualify as refugees without leaving their country. The program is still working through what age and circumstance must be present in order for a child to qualify.

Final guidance regarding the program is forthcoming, and updates will be provided as released.

Updated provided by Lauren E. McClure.

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