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Biden sued by 8 states over program that allows Central American children to legally reunite with parents in the US

President Joe Biden (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • Republican attorneys general in eight states sued the Biden administration on Friday.
  • They asked a federal judge to stop a program that legally allows children to reunite with their parents living in the US.
  • The program was enacted under the Obama administration and has been expanded under Biden.

Republican attorneys general in eight states on Friday filed a lawsuit requesting a federal judge stop a Biden administration program that allows children of legal immigrants from Central America living in the US to reunite with their parents. 

The attorneys general in Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas sued over the program, called the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program. 

“There are no lawful paths for aliens who lack status to come join other aliens who lack status in the United States—and for good reason. It defies common sense,” the attorneys general wrote in the lawsuit.

“No sovereign nation would reward those who break the law by permitting family members abroad to join them in living in the sovereign territory unlawfully, particularly with the assistance of the government itself,” they said, adding to “do so would undermine national sovereignty and would be fundamentally unfair to those who pursue lawful immigration channels and patiently wait for their opportunity to immigrate to the United States.” 

According to the US State Department, the program started in 2014 to “give at-risk children in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the opportunity to come to the United States as refugees.” 

The program, created during the administration of former President Barack Obama, expanded under President Joe Biden to include children of legal guardians and parents who have ongoing asylum cases, the Texas Tribune reported.

The program began a two-phase reopening on March 10 last year after it was halted in 2017 under the administration of former President Donald Trump. At the time, according to the Washington Post, Trump’s decision to end the program left 2,714 children, who had already received approval, unable to come to the US. 

The pause also meant that 1,465 children who had come to the US under the program, which grants a two-year renewable parole for them to legally live in the US, had to find another way to remain in the country when the program expired, according to the Post. 

Last March, when the Central American Minors Refugee and Parole Program restarted, it was first focused on opening cases closed without an interview in 2018, when the program ended, according to the State Department.

The State Department announced new guidelines for submissions in June last year, which require parents from the three countries be legally living in the US on “permanent resident status; temporary protected status; parole, deferred action; deferred enforced departure; or withholding of removal,” the State Department website said.

In the lawsuit, the attorneys general argued Biden doesn’t have the authority to enact such a program without the approval of Congress, arguing the program places a burden on states who are required to provide social services to the children.

The children must be under 21 years old, unmarried, and the parents must submit to DNA testing and provide paperwork to prove their relationship to the child. The process to gain approval can take up to a year, the Texas Tribune reported.

“The Biden Administration has sown nothing but disaster for our country through its illegal, unconstitutional immigration policies,” Texas Attorney General Paxton, who has targeted the Biden administration with numerous lawsuits over the past year, said.

“Biden’s latest round of flagrant law-breaking includes his Central American Minors Program, which has contributed significantly to many states being forced to take in even more aliens. My fellow attorneys general and I are suing to stop it,” he added.

Last year, the Department of State and Homeland Security defended the program’s reopening as means to deliver a safer and more humane pathway to protection for migrant children who make an oftentimes dangerous and unaccompanied trek to the US southern border.

“We are firmly committed to welcoming people to the United States with humanity and respect, and reuniting families. We are delivering on our promise to promote safe, orderly, and humane migration from Central America through this expansion of legal pathways to seek humanitarian protection in the United States,” the State Department and Homeland Security said in a joint statement.

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