US Opens New Legal Pathway for Immigrants from Central America and Colombia

The Biden administration will soon open a new immigration program to allow certain Central Americans and Colombians to enter the United States legally and to discourage potential migrants from these countries from traveling north to illegally cross the southern border of the United States. , officials said on Friday.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiative, which will officially begin on July 10, will allow eligible migrants from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to travel to the United States and obtain permits government work if they have parents who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and have filed visa applications on their behalf.

As part of a broader plan to tackle illegal crossings along the US-Mexico border earlier this year, the Biden administration pledged to welcome up to 100,000 Central American migrants into under this program, known as the family reunification parole process. Officials did not provide a time frame for fulfilling this commitment or a cap for Colombian applicants.

To be eligible for the program, migrants must have ties to the United States. The process begins with U.S. citizens or permanent residents filing immigrant visa applications on behalf of relatives from these four countries. Eligible family members include adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens and children and spouses of permanent residents.

Once these applications are approved, the U.S. citizen or resident applicants can receive an invitation to apply for their loved ones to come to the U.S. much faster than they would have under the pending visa system and digitally capped. Some prospective immigrants with U.S. family members often have to wait years — and in some cases, more than a decade — for immigrant visas to become available.

A Homeland Security spokesperson said state departments plan to begin issuing invitations for the program later in July.

If selected and approved, relatives would be allowed to enter the country under humanitarian parole authority, which also allows them to work legally in the United States. These migrants could obtain permanent residence, or a green card, once their visa is available.

Those who cross the US-Mexico border without permission or who are intercepted at sea on their way to US soil after July 10 are disqualified from the process.

More than 70,000 people could immediately benefit from the program, according to government data. At the end of May, 17,400 Colombians, 32,600 Salvadorans, 12,800 Guatemalans and 10,700 Hondurans were waiting in the backlog of family immigrant visas with approved petitions. Officials, however, said the government does not expect all of these migrants to be invited to the programme.

In notices implementing the program, the administration called it “an alternative to irregular migration to help relieve pressure on the southwestern border.”

“The Department has proven that the expansion of safe, orderly, and legal pathways, combined with strong enforcement, is effective in reducing unsafe and irregular migration to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. , in a press release.

So far in fiscal year 2023, more than 126,000 Colombians, 115,000 Guatemalans, 41,000 Salvadorans and 110,000 Hondurans have been processed by U.S. immigration authorities at the southwest border, according to federal figures.

Earlier in President Biden’s presidency, his administration revived two similar Obama- and Bush-era parole programs for Cubans and Haitians with American parents.

The Biden administration has made expanding legal migration a cornerstone of its revamped strategy to reduce unauthorized crossings along the southern border, which have reached record levels in 2022.

Authorities have also used the parole authority to admit up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans with U.S. sponsors each month, and to process tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Mexico who get an appointment. you to enter the United States through a government application.

At the same time, the administration has increased deportations and tightened asylum rules for migrants who do not use these programs.

A regulation enacted in May makes migrants ineligible for asylum if they enter the United States illegally without first seeking humanitarian protection in another country. Those who cannot prove they deserve an exemption from the rule risk deportation and a ban on re-entering the country for five years.

The administration credited the measures with a marked drop in illegal border entries since May, when U.S. authorities halted a pandemic-era order known as Title 42 that allowed them to deport migrants for public health reasons.

After peaking at 10,000 before Title 42 expired, daily illegal border crossings have fallen below 4,000 in recent days.

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