Obama-era program, terminated by Trump, reactivated by Biden, provides pathway for minors to escape gang violence and reunite with parents in U.S.

LOS ANGELES, CA – This month, the International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) has received notice of the first 20 refugee approved cases from Central America under the reactivated Central American Minors (CAM) Program. IILA worked with these families to apply for refugee status for their children through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These 20 cases are just a few of the thousands that were left unresolved when the Trump administration terminated the program in 2017.

The CAM Program was created under the Obama administration in response to the record-breaking numbers of unaccompanied minors who were arriving at the US-Mexico border from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The CAM Program allowed parents or legal guardians with eligible immigration status to file an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) or refugee application for the children whom they were forced to leave behind and who were being persecuted by gangs. In addition to reuniting families, CAM was also a life-saving program as it freed youth from gang persecution and offered them a safe and legal pathway to the U.S. The program allowed children to remain in Central America during the application process, protecting them from human traffickers and smugglers on the dangerous journey to the US-Mexico border.

During the initial implementation of the CAM Program under the Obama administration, IILA filed AORs for over 1,400 vulnerable youth. Under the Trump administration, the program was terminated and about 500 of IILA’s cases were closed leaving children in grave danger.  The CAM Program was reactivated in March 2021 under the Biden administration. In May 2021, IILA began to reach out to the parents whose cases were closed and conducted informational sessions on the re-opening of the program.  The reactivated program also included an expanded eligibility criteria for new applicants.

IILA is actively working on over 100 reactivated cases. On September 28, 2021 IILA will welcome the first CAM reactivated case, which was originally filed on September 19, 2016. IILA is honored to be part of this family’s reunification after 25 years of separation.

“CAM is a critical lifeline for some of the most vulnerable youth fleeing Central America. Getting refugee status granted in these 20 cases is very promising that IILA can help more youth escape gang violence,” said Lilian Alba, Vice President of Immigrant & Refugee Services, “We are working through many more cases of parents trying to reunite with their children who face the threat of violence, rape, and even death at the hands of gangs. We estimate an additional 1,200 youth will be assisted over the next year.”


International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) a nonprofit founded in 1914 to help newly-arrived immigrants in Los Angeles. IILA’s mission is to help families become self-sufficient and to promote cross-cultural understanding. IILA employs over 120 staff that provide child care, legal aid, employment assistance, transportation, nutrition, and other services to refugees, immigrants, survivors of human trafficking, and low-income working families. For more information, visit

Media Contacts:

Cambria Tortorelli, President & CEO
(661) 349-1065
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Alex T. Nguyen, Development Director
(323) 224-3800
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