The second program provides a limited opening for Central Americans to be treated like refugees from other conflict zones around the globe. In January of this year, the Obama administration announced that it would work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to offer aid to Northern Triangle refugees:
Speaking on foreign policy at the National Defense University in Washington on Wednesday, Kerry said: “I am pleased to announce that we have plans to expand the US refugee admissions program in order to help vulnerable families and individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and offer them a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey that many are tempted to begin, making them at that instant easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profit.”
The state department said it would work with the UN and non-government organisations to identify people in need of refugee protection, including human rights activists.
A department spokesman added that, unlike the existing in-country program for Central American minors, this will not be a direct application program. Instead, it will be based upon referrals from organisations that work with vulnerable populations in the three countries. Also unlike the existing Central American minors program, individuals and families without relatives in the US will be eligible.
The UNHCR will assist with determining who should be referred for resettlement, but the final decision will rest with the US government. The eligibility criteria will be identical to those applied throughout the world under its existing refugee admissions program.