US program to grant refugee status to some Central American children
WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. government will launch a program next month to grant refugee status to some people under the age of 21 who live in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and whose parents legally reside in the United States.
U.S. officials say the parents will be able to request refugee status for their children free of charge, but the program does not apply to minors who have arrived in the U.S. illegally.
Biden announced the program at the Inter-American Development Bank, where the presidents of the three Central American countries are presenting a plan to stem child migration from their countries. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are plagued by poverty and vicious gang violence.
The announcement comes as President Barack Obama is preparing a series of executive actions on immigration.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte is criticizing the plan, saying a "government-sanctioned border surge" will be set off if Obama acts as expected.
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