US program for Central American child refugees to end Thursday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) ? The U.S. State Department will stop accepting new applications at midnight on Thursday for a program that allowed children fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status in the U.S. before leaving home.

President Donald Trump?s administration told Congress in September it would phase out the Central American Minors (CAM) program during fiscal year 2018, which began on Oct. 1.

The CAM program started at the end of 2014 under former President Barack Obama as a response to tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum in the U.S.

An executive order on border security signed by Trump days after he took office in January triggered a review of the program.

In its report to Congress, the Trump administration said it was ending CAM ?because the vast majority of individuals accessing the program were not eligible for refugee resettlement.?

The government will instead focus on ?more targeted? refugee processing in Central America, working with the government of Costa Rica, the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration, the report said.