Trump administration terminates program that united thousands of families fleeing violence in Central America

The so-called CAM program is one of several terminated under Trump.

— -- At midnight tonight, the Trump administration will end another immigration program -- one that reunited children from Central America with their parents here legally in the U.S.

The other family members who qualified only included the child's other parent or caregiver or the child's own child, the parent's grandchild.

The program was started in December 2014 by the Obama administration after the enormous influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S.

Since then, the program has received over 14,000 applications. About 8,000 of those have been processed, with 3,238 children and family members admitted, as refugees and parolees. The other 6,000 individuals remain in the pipeline and could still be given entry.

"Terminating the entire CAM program will neither promote safety for these children nor help our government regulate migration," said Bishop Joe Vasquez, the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. "We continue to pray and express our support for parents who endure anxiety and emotional hardship knowing their children will continue to languish in violence; and to the children themselves, who will not be able to reunite and embrace their parents."

That was the administration's reasoning for curtailing the regular refugee admissions program in September, setting the lowest cap in the program's history at 45,000 refugees. But the government has not warned about any specific terror threat from these Central American countries, and State Department officials would not say specifically why it was shutting down the program.

"This decision was taken as part of the overall U.S. government review of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for FY 2018," a State Department official said in an emailed statement. Another official said the termination was "to make sure our refugee program is doing what we want it to do," but would not say what that was.

Critics of the program under the Obama administration, however, charged that it did not work because many of the applicants did not legally meet the definition of a refugee because they were fleeing violent conflict, but not persecution of some kind -- something Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security disagreed with, calling the program "an alternative, safe, and legal path to the United States for children seeking protection from harm or persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras" in July 2016.

Some 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the U.S. -- many of whom have been here for years and had children in the U.S. -- now must leave before January 2019 or face deportation then.

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