Obama Finally Floats a Refugee Plan As Support for Deportation Grows

Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, left, listens as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media next to Honduran President Juan Hernandez after they met to discuss Central American immigration and the border crisis. Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, left, listens as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media next to Honduran President Juan Hernandez after they met to discuss Central American immigration and the border crisis. AP Photo

Obama administration officials are considering a plan that would allow Hondurans under 21 to apply for refugee status from their home country, without having to make the dangerous trek to America. Meanwhile, a new CNN poll shows that a slim majority of Americans now believe the U.S. should focus on deportations over legalization. 

According to The New York Times, the proposal is just one of many being discussed, but would likely see 5,000 children applying for 1,750 spots, costing the U.S. $47 million over two years. If they program was successful it would be expanded to El Salvador and Guatemala. Officials added that the plan could be enacted through executive action, as long as it doesn't increase the number of refugees admitted into the country each year. 

Guatemalan President Otto Perez, one of the three Central American presidents meeting with President Obama Friday to discuss the child migrant crisis, said Thursday that he hadn't yet heard the plan but expected a solution for all three countries. "We expect that the solution to this problem also is equal for the three countries," he told the Associated Press.

Critics of the plan argue that it changes the legal definition of a refugee — typically refugees are targeted for their religious or cultural affiliations, not general violence. At the same time, the administration's draft of the plan noted that 64.7 percent of unaccompanied migrant minors were granted asylum by immigration courts. Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, argued that illegal immigration would increase by an "order of magnitude" if applying for a refugee visa involved "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.”

And the recent spotlight on the child migrant crisis may be shifting America's views. In February, the Pew Research Center found that Americans were evenly split— 45 percent to 45 percent — on where increased deportations were good or bad. In July, however, 53 percent of Americans thought we should deal with the recent influx of Central American kids by "speed(ing up the) process, even if some who are eligible for asylum are deported. Another 39 percent thought we should follow the current process. 

A new CNN poll, released Thursday, shows a similar drop in support for legalization (this poll also asks the same question, unlike the Pew polls):

Congress is currently attempting to legislate on President Obama's request for $3.8 billion to increase resources at the border and expedite deportations. Both the House and the Senate have slashed that request by over $1 billion, and House Republicans are demanding a change to a 2008 human trafficking law that prevents the immediate deportation of Central Americans. 

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