The Obama administration is considering a two-year, $47 million pilot program that would screen children and young adults in Honduras to qualify them to enter the U.S. as refugees or on humanitarian emergency grounds, The New York Times reports
Under a draft proposal prepared by several federal agencies, the program would allow young people up to age 21 to enter the country without traveling through Mexico, the Times reports. Its cost assumes that 5,000 Hondurans would apply to the effort and 1,750 were accepted.
If the program is successful, it would be expanded to Guatemala and El Salvador, according to the Times.
The proposed effort comes as the Obama administration seeks to address the border crisis, which has led to the arrests of more than 57,000 illegal minors since Oct. 1. Besides Mexico and Honduras, most of the illegals have also come from El Salvador and Guatemala.
The White House estimates that as many as 90,000 could be apprehended at the South Texas border by the end of September.
Obama administration officials and immigration advocates say the young illegals are fleeing widespread gang violence in their native countries, while Republicans attribute the deluge to the White House's lax enforcement of immigration laws.
Critics slammed the proposal, saying it would only add to the exploding number of young illegals coming to the U.S.
"It’s clearly a bad idea," Mark Krikorian, the executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Times. "More people will apply for refugee status if they can just do it from their home countries."
He added that the proposal would allow people to claim to be refugees from their countries with "nothing more than a bus ride to the consulate. We’re talking about, down the road, an enormous additional flow of people from those countries."
The program would employ American immigration workers who were trained to deal with minors, the Times reports. They would interview children in Honduras at a resettlement center.
The center would be established in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, with assistance from such international organizations as the International Organization for Migration.
Obama administration officials confirmed to the Times that the effort was being considered, though they stressed that no final decision had been made.
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