HELENA — Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is joined by seven other Republican attorneys general in a lawsuit against the Biden administration over an immigration policy that allows children from select Central American counties to come to the United States to join their families who are lawfully in the country or have pending asylum claims.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas last week claiming the Central American Minors (CAM) Program is unconstitutional and costly to American states. The other states joining Montana in the lawsuit are Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
“I think [CAM] is fragrantly illegal,” Knudsen told MTN. “It’s not just illegal, it’s literally rewarding illegal behavior with this program.”
CAM was first implemented under the Obama administration to help children of immigrants lawfully enter the country rather than turn to human smugglers. It allows for children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras an opportunity to apply for refugee status and possible resettlement in the United States if their biological parent or step-parent is legally within the United States. Qualifying children have to be under the age of 21 and unmarried. The children and guardians are also subject to a background check and must prove their relationship to the child through paperwork or DNA.
The program was ended by the Trump administration and then reinstated by the Biden administration. Under Biden, the program’s qualifying adult definition was expanded to also include a child’s legal guardians and parents with pending asylum cases.
“If President Obama opened the door to abuse in that program, the Biden administration has completely blown the door off the hinges,” said Knudsen.
Knudsen says the expansion to include pending asylum cases drastically increases the number of qualifying individuals given the number of individuals at the southern border who are trying to enter under the grounds of seeking asylum. He also doesn’t believe the federal government or the countries the children are coming from are able to adequately prove the relationship between guardian and child.
“It’s flung the door wide open to abuse,” Knudsen said. “If Congress wanted that sort of action done they could have implemented that themselves. Just at a constitutional level, I don’t believe the administration has the authority to just put a program like that in place.”
Knudsen recently returned to Montana after a trip to Texas to tour the Southern Border with other Republican attorneys general. He told MTN the border situation worries him greatly and notes that Montana is being impacted at “epidemic levels.”
“At this point in the game with the illegal immigration problem, the human trafficking problem, the fentanyl crisis, the methamphetamine crisis, these are all things we are dealing with every day here in Montana,” said Knudsen.