Obama Administration to expand refugee program for Central Americans
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Obama Administration to expand refugee program for Central Americans

The Obama Administration has revealed it will be increasing the number of Central American refugees admitted into the U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced during a speech at the National Defense University, made on January 13, that the Administration is to expand its Refugee Admissions Program with a focus on people from countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Kerry said the expansion of the program will give refugees from these countries “a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey many are currently tempted to begin, making them easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits.”

The Obama Administration has come under intense scrutiny for carrying out raids on undocumented Central American immigrants, including families, in early January.

“Inhumane” actions

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, several civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups, as well as some politicians – including Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – have denounced Obama’s raids.

According to a report by the Washington Post, on Monday 18, some 100 Democrats signed a letter criticizing the Administration for its “inhumane” deportation of refugees fleeing violence in Central America.

The report also states that the government is to continue carrying out raids.

Kerry did not reveal how many more refugees are likely to be admitted into the U.S., nor when the program’s expansion is due to start.

The Secretary of State’s announcement came the same day that the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (IRLC) in the U.S. published a 20-page report, Relief Not Raids, maintaining that some 757,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras would likely receive Temporary Status Protection.

Temporary Status Protection (TPS) – part of the Immigration Act 1990 – is a temporary immigration status which can be given to immigrants in the U.S. who cannot, temporarily, return safely to their country of origin because of armed conflict, natural disaster or other similar conditions.

The report states the Administration has the “legal authority” to designate the three affected countries for TPS, “because of the existence of ‘extraordinary and temporary conditions’ and de facto ‘armed conflicts’”.

A “genuine humanitarian crisis”

According to the report, at least 83 people who were deported to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between January 2014 and September 2015 have been murdered after returning to their country of origin.

IRLC’s Immigration Policy Attorney Jose Magaña-Salgado, who also authored the report, said in a press release that “immigration raids are a grossly inappropriate and ineffective response to a genuine humanitarian crisis.”

“Instead, President Obama must exercise his legal authority to expand Temporary Protected Status to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras as individuals from those countries simply cannot safely return to their homes. To do otherwise would be to continue sending Central American refugees to their deaths,” he added.

Violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras countries is endemic, and they have the highest homicides rates in the world According to  InSight Crime, the Northern Triangle of Central America is the most violent region in the world.

Earlier this week, Latin Correspondent reported that the U.S. Peace Corps has suspended its volunteer program in El Salvador because the country has been deemed too dangerous. In 2012, the organisation pulled out of violence-ridden Honduras also because of security concerns.

Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees published two reports – Children on the Run and Women on the Run – underscoring the violent condition in which children and women are fleeing from in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

See also:

Obama reveals new refugee status program