October 4, 2023

Children play while families of asylum seekers wait outside the El Chaparral border crossing port as they wait to enter the United States on February 19, 2021 in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s administration is reinstating an Obama-era program that will allow some Central American children to legally enter the United States from their home countries, the State Department said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes as the Biden government faces an influx of unaccompanied migrant children on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Neither this announcement nor any of the other measures suggest that anyone, especially children and families with young children, should make the dangerous journey to enter the US infrequently,” said Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s southern border coordinator at a news conference on Wednesday.

“The border is not open. Going forward, we will continue to seek ways to provide legal opportunities to people in need of protection in the area while we continue to enforce our laws,” said Jacobson.

The Central American Minors Program, launched in 2014 under President Barack Obama, would allow certain minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to legally reunite with a parent or parents in the United States

The State Department announced it would first process applications that were closed when President Donald Trump’s administration ended the program in 2017 and then accept new applications.

More than 3,200 unaccompanied migrant children are being housed in customs and border protection facilities, NBC News reported Tuesday. Almost half of the children were held in CBP cells, which are beyond the three-day legal limit.

A total of about 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children crossed the border in February, according to government data checked by NBC News.

“The numbers are significant. The challenge is significant and our plans are in full swing as we build the capacity to meet the needs of the children and we are building from scratch,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Minister for Home Affairs Safety, told NBC News in an interview that aired last weekend.

Mayorkas, Biden’s domestic affairs adviser Susan Rice, and other government officials visited the U.S. border with Mexico on Saturday, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

Kevin McCarthy, minority chairman of the R-California House of Representatives, will lead a group of Republican members on a visit to Texas to assess the influx of migrants on the southern border, Axios reported Tuesday.

The planned visit comes after McCarthy sent a letter to Biden last Friday asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.