The Obama administration will broaden the effort to allow families of children fleeing dangerous conditions to enter the United States with them.
WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday announced a substantial expansion of a program to admit Central American refugees to the United States, conceding that its efforts to protect migrants fleeing dangerous conditions had left too many people with no recourse.
The administration said it would broaden an initiative that currently lets unaccompanied Central American children enter the United States as refugees, allowing their entire families to qualify, including siblings older than 21, parents and other relatives who act as caregivers.
It is unclear how many refugees might be eligible, but during its two years, the program for children has drawn 9,500 applicants, which could eventually grow to many times that with the broader criteria.
The expansion was denounced by Republicans, and it sharpened a contrast with Donald J. Trump, who has centered much of his presidential campaign on a call to shut out immigrants.
Republicans said the Obama administration should be focused on tackling what they called a border crisis. The expansion would instead essentially open an entirely new channel for Central American families escaping endemic violence to gain legal entrance to the United States.