The Biden administration announced Monday it will begin accepting applications for its expanded Central American Minors (CAM) program, which allows adults in the United States to petition to legally bring their minor dependents from the troubled region.
CAM is part of the administration's strategy to lessen pressure on border enforcement agencies that are stressed by a rising flow in irregular migration through Central America and Mexico.
"Strengthening collaborative migration management, which includes creating legal pathways, including CAM, is one of the pillars of the president's blueprint for a fair, orderly and humane immigration system," said a senior administration official on a call with reporters.
Monday's announcement follows the reinstatement of the program in March and a June expansion of eligibility for the program, which had been shut down by the Trump administration in 2017.
Under CAM, parents and legal guardians who are lawfully present in the United States can petition for their children to be granted status to travel to and remain in the United States.
According to administration officials, tens of thousands of parents could be eligible to apply for the revamped program.
In its first stage under the Biden administration, CAM reopened cases for parents from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala whose applications had been interrupted during the Trump administration.
The second phase will take new applications from the expanded categories of eligible parents and guardians.
Along with U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, eligible applicants include foreign nationals under temporary protected status, humanitarian parole, deferred enforced departure, withholding of removal, a pending asylum application or a visa for victims of criminal activity.
The expansion of CAM eligibility to people under temporary or humanitarian status in the United States is part of the Biden administration's effort to highlight its family reunification initiatives.
The Biden administration separately announced an initiative to grant at least three years of legal residency to parents of families who were separated under the Trump administration's short-lived zero tolerance policy.
Still, the CAM initiative is also geared toward depriving human smugglers of a source of income by granting legal pathways to minors from Central America to skip the dangerous irregular route through Mexico.
For minors to be eligible for CAM, they must go through the application process while in Central America, a feature that's designed both to cut the smugglers' client base and to reduce the number of minors presenting at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden administration officials are expecting August's border apprehension numbers to be lower than July's, easing political pressure related to the so-far unyielding rise in regional migration.