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Family reunification program at risk

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Texas charges against the family reunification program that allows children from Central America to reunite with their family in the United States.


The Central American Minors program is a family reunification program that allows children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reunite with their parents or legal guardians in the United States. Recently, Texas lawmakers leading 7 other states have filed a complaint against this program, arguing, among other things, that the program represents a financial burden for the country because it forces them to spend on education and an expanded health system to receive the children in their territory.

The attorney general of Texas, along with attorneys from Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Montana filed the complaint last Friday, January 29, asking the federal court to put an end to Biden’s family reunification program.

How does the family reunification program work?

The Central American Minors Program was originally created in 2014 by the Barack Obama administration, and allowed children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reunite with their biological parents or step-parents who already had legal immigration status. This and other family reunification programs prevent many desperate families from choosing illegal routes into the United States to reunite with their children.

After the Donald Trump administration ended the program in 2017, the Biden administration reopened it in March 2021. While under the Obama era the scope of the program was limited to minors with legal resident parents or stepparents in the United States, the new and updated version of the program was expanded to also include minors whose parents or legal guardians are resolving asylum cases.

To access the family reunification program, minors must be under 21 years of age and not married. When requesting reunification with biological parents, the system requires a DNA test to verify the family relationship; guardians or stepparents must instead present all the necessary documentation that verifies their relationship with the minor.

The processing time of the cases taken by the program can be from six months to a year. Once approved, the minor can enter the United States with refugee status, which offers a path to immigration waivers, work permits, and even citizenship. During the Obama era, more than 6,000 cases were processed and approved, and more than 4,500 of the beneficiaries immigrated to the United States.

Why is Texas against the family reunification program?

According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the program goes “against common sense” and “rewards those who break the law.” He maintains that the Biden administration does not have the authority to keep the program active and must have it approved by the United States Congress. In addition, he maintains that it is unfair that the states that receive the reunified minors should bear the necessary economic expenses.

It is not the first time that the state of Texas has opposed the immigration measures of the Biden administration: in 2018, a similar complaint issued by a Texas federal judge managed to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, a program that protects undocumented youth from deportation and allows them access to work permits. As of today, the USCIS is not allowed to receive new applications to the program.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 281-606-5362!

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