WASHINGTON – The U.S. government will now allow minors in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who have a relative living legally in the United States to apply for asylum or a residency permit at offices in their own country, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday.
The program, which begins in December, “will provide a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that some children make – and some children don’t ever arrive, don’t ever make,” the vice president said at a conference attended by the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in Washington.
Parents in the United States will kick off the process by filling out an application form for their child – who must be younger than age 21 and unmarried – requesting that he or she be granted an interview at a U.S. office in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras, the State Department said.
The State Department stressed that the applications will be studied case by case.
Nonetheless, children who do not comply with the requisites for refugee status, but are in danger of being harmed if they stay where they are, will be considered for a special residency permit on humanitarian grounds.
The permit for humanitarian asylum allows a temporary entry into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons but does not grant long-term immigration benefits.
In addition, if the spouse of a person living legally in the United States continues to dwell in their country of origin, “under certain circumstances” they can be included in the minor’s application for refugee status.
Once the family member fills out the form in the United States, the minors will be interviewed in their country of origin to make sure they comply with security regulations, have an up-to-date medical report, and must undergo DNA tests to verify that children and parents are related.
The United States “provides those seeking asylum a right way to come to our country, as opposed to crossing the border illegally,” Vice President Biden said.