Jorge Cabrera/Reuters

Originally published by The Washington Post 

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are asking the Trump administration to reverse a decision this month to end a program that allowed some Central American minors to join their parents in the United States, calling the move morally indefensible.

In a letter to Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Congress members expressed deep concern and disappointment over the decision to terminate the CAM (Central American Minors) program, which had granted nearly 1,500 minors temporary legal residence here.

It’s morally indefensible to create fear and confusion in children’s lives, the members, including CHC Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), wrote. Vice chairs Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) were among 17 others who signed the letter.

The Obama administration launched the program in 2014 in response to a spike in the number of Central American minors entering the United States without authorization. Under the program, minors who had a parent living legally in the United States were permitted to join them under renewable two-year visas.

But Trump issued a pair of executive actions in January that directed DHS to bolster immigration enforcement, including eliminating the CAM program. This month, DHS formally rescinded it, shutting the door on 2,714 minors who had won conditional approval to enter the country but were not yet here. DHS officials said the 1,465 minors already in the United States will not be allowed to renew their status and must go through other means to try to extend their stays.

Human rights groups said the spike in migration out of the Central American countries has been caused by increasing poverty and violence perpetrated by gangs and drug cartels. The number of minors and other immigrants trying to enter the country illegally has fallen sharply since Trump took office, which both administration officials and advocates said was because of Trump’s harsher rhetoric toward illegal immigrants and his efforts to ramp up enforcement measures.

In their letter, the Congress members said they fear that the termination of the CAM program will force these vulnerable, desperate children to make the much more dangerous and deadly trek to the United States using human smugglers and traffickers – a practice the administration has stated they want to dismantle.

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