The U.S. will expand refugee screening in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, in an attempt to stem the growing tide of families and unaccompanied children fleeing the countries, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday. The U.S. will “expand” the refugee admissions program in the three countries to “offer [families and individuals] a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey that many are tempted to begin, making them at that instant easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits,” he said during a speech at National Defense University, in Washington.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on current figures detailing how many Central American minors have been approved for the program. According to the non-governmental organization U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, only five children arrived in the program’s first year.Stacie Blake, who leads the group’s government relations efforts, said they are concerned about the processing speeds of the newly-announced refugee screening efforts. “A sense of urgency is needed,” she said in an email. “Women and children are running for their lives. A policy or plan with no urgency will not protect vulnerable people running for their lives.” Read more on the Huffington Post.