SAN ANTONIO – The unaccompanied minors and families arriving at the Texas-Mexico border are said to have risked everything to reach the United States.
Erica Schommer, clinical law professor at the St. Mary’s School of Law, said the Biden administration has two possible solutions in the works that could help reduce the number of arrivals at the border in the future.
Started by the Obama administration, then stopped by the Trump administration, Shommer said the Central American Minors program is being reinstated.
Schommer said it would allow minors who have parents U.S. to be processed in their home countries.
The other plan would screen people who meet the definition of a refugee in Central America, like they are in other countries. Schommer said.
Although they could seek refugee status in their home country, Schommer said they could do the same in another country.
Schommer said the only difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker is where they’re identified to meet the standard of protection.
“The way our law exists, you can’t request asylum until you physically get here,” Schommer said. “A refugee is someone who is identified outside the U.S. to meet the criteria.”
Schommer said as a refugee, they’ve already gone through the process of establishing that “they have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group.”
After being vetted and undergoing security checks, Schommer said, “They are hooked up with refugee resettlement agencies that help them get settled. And then after a year, they can apply for a green card.”
Schommer said once the programs are ready to go, “I think those two things are very important measures because they will give people another option.”
She added if the programs are successful, once the backlog of people at the border subsides, “I think the numbers are going to go down and be more manageable.”