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Cancellation of Two Federal Immigrant Programs Puts Central American Kids in Limbo


Eric Gay/AP

Children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for women and children detained at the border, in Karnes City, Texas, in this Sept. 2014 photo.

Two programs that helped teens and young children escape gang violence in Central America have been quietly canceled by the Trump Administration.

The Central American Minors Program (or CAM Program) gave people from three Central American countries conditional refugee status, allowing them to settle in the U.S. on parole.

The decision to cancel the program, says Laura Berrara of the Boyd Law School Immigration Clinic, leaves about 2,700 children stranded in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, where kids have to choose between joining a gang or becoming a gang "girlfriend" if they're girls or be killed. Faced with those choices many flee the country.

The decision to cancel the program, made without fanfare in mid-August, also puts in limbo thousands of minors who were given conditional refugee status and are already in this country.

Berrara says that the minors in the CAM Program from the three Central American countries have been denied refugee status because gang violence - including forced fighting or sex trafficking - are not on the Department of Homeland Security's list of the definition of a refugee. That list is limted to "race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion."

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Another decision, which affected the Boyd Immigration Clinic directly, is the cancellation of the Americorps Legal Fellowships Program. The program provides money for young attorneys to represent indigent clients, including kids escaping violence from Central America.

Berrara was brought to Las Vegas in 2016 to be the Boyd Americorps Fellow. Local attorney Ed Bernstein stepped in to fund the program when the Trump Administration signaled its intent to cancel. But, says Berrara, clinics and practices in other cities have not all been able to find alternative funding, and may have to walk away from cases in progress.

From Desert Companion:

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Laura Berrara, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, Boyd Law School Immigration Clinic

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