Costa Rica will host for six months about 200 people from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala as part of an Obama administration plan to bring more Central Americans into the United States.
Costa Rica announced the plan Tuesday but downplayed any involvement by the United States.
Washington, D.C., sources said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will pre-screen people seeking protection and transfer them to Costa Rica for processing before resettlement in the United States or another country.
The individuals were described as vulnerable people from the violence-torn Central American countries. The White House said that the administration’s efforts are designed to reduce the tens of thousands of illegal crossings of the U.S.’s southern border each year.
The Obama administration also announced the expansion of the Central American Minors program, where the White House provides qualified children under 21 a safe, legal and orderly way to reach the U.S.
The program, which is currently reviewing more than 9,500 applicants, allows a parent who legally resides in the United States to request refugee status for his or her children who are still in one of the three designated Central American countries.
Since October 2015, more than 51,000 people traveling as families and over 43,000 children traveling alone have been caught illegally crossing the Mexican border into the U.S.
The Central American Minors program was launched in December 2014. More than 600 minors have moved to the United States since then. Nearly 3,000 children have been approved, while more than 9,500 applications are pending.
Th United States and Costa Rica are working with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration with the resettlement program.
The success for the program depends on the outcome of the November elections in the United States. Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, is likely to continue the program of Barack
Obama. Republican Donald Trump has proposed building a wall at the U.S. border with México, and he is not likely to be sympathetic to claims that the migrants are vulnerable.
The Obama administration announcement comes at a time when the Democratic Party is trying to capture the votes of Mexicans and Latin Americans.
Costa Rica said that the program would not cost the country any money, suggesting that the United States will be paying all the expenses, but a Casa Presidencial summary said that the money would come from the International Organization for Migration.
Amy Pope, White House deputy Homeland Security adviser, said the new and expanded programs should help promote safe and orderly immigration and border security.
She said the administration did not know how many families and children might benefit from the efforts, but expected a steady increase in requests in the months ahead.
Costa Rica officials said that the vulnerable individuals would be given temporary humanitarian visas and added that the individuals would be checked beforehand. Costa Rican officials noted that the country has a history of humanitarian actions.