Immigration Reform News: John Kerry Announces Plans to Expand Refugee Program

The Latin Post reports that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in a speech Wednesday plans for the United States to expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to help thousands of Central Americans who have illegally crossed the border in a desperate attempt to escape ongoing violence.

While making an address at the National Defense University, Kerry argued that it is in the American DNA to help people fleeing chaos in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. “That is who we are, that is what we do,” Kerry said, according to NBC News. “The refugee crisis is not just a Syrian issue.” He added that helping the refuges is a global challenge that “tests our values, our self-confidence in our very humanity.”

According to Kerry, the refugee program will be expanded in order to provide Central American refugees with “a safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey many are currently tempted to begin, making them easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits,” reports Reuters. He also said that the federal government will offer refugee protection, especially to those targeted by criminal gangs and human rights activists, by working with the United Nations and non-profit organizations. “We also continue to explore additional options, including for those who may be at imminent risk of harm,” Kerry said.

As of now, the U.S. operates nine centers around the world, although only one is located in the Western hemisphere. Kerry did not specify whether the United States would send government workers to the center in Quito, Ecuador or open additional centers. The announcement follows backlash from immigration activists and Democratic presidential candidates who urged the Department of Homeland Security to halt its reported plan to conduct deportation raids on Central American families. According to The Washington Post, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning to deport immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. during a surge in border crossings in 2014.