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US to End Refugee Program for Central American Youth

FILE - In this July 12, 2014, file photo, a young migrant girl waits for a freight train to depart on her way to the U.S. border, in Ixtepec, Mexico.

The U.S. State Department is ending the Central American Minors (CAM) refugee program established to stem the flood of children attempting to enter the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The program, established in 2014 by the Obama administration, allowed certain parents lawfully residing in the U.S. to request a refugee resettlement interview for their children and eligible family members. But the Trump administration said it would end the program as part of its overall review of the refugees admissions process.

The State Department said the deadline to apply for the program is Thursday. While people from those countries seeking refugee status may still be eligible, they must use the normal refugee screening process, the department said.

Since 2014, more than 1,500 children and eligible family members have arrived in the United States as refugees under the CAM program, and another 13,000 have applied for refuge, the State Department said.

The decision to end the program comes the same week that the administration announced that it was ending the immigration benefits for nearly 2,500 Nicaraguan nationals living and working in the U.S. under a program called Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The Department of Homeland Security gave the Nicaraguan TPS recipients 12 months after the Jan. 5 expiration of their protected status to arrange their affairs and either leave the country or obtain legal status through a different visa category.

Another 195,000 Salvadorans and 46,000 Haitians are awaiting the decision on their fate, as DHS must decide in coming weeks what to do with TPS recipients from those countries whose legal residency will expire early next year.