The definition of a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his/her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has either been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution based on his/her race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
The refugee process is determined by the UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency and international law. To be designated a “refugee” on must have fled country A to country B and entered a UNHCR designated area, usually a refugee camp. If the UNHCR determines one is a refugee you are put on a list to see if you can be resettled into a 3rdcountry – Country C. This is called resettlement. Only about 1% of the world’s designated refugee population is resettled. http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/resettlement.html
Refugees can only be resettled in the United States by a designated resettlement agency. In South Dakota that resettlement agency is Lutheran Social Services (LSSSD). LSSSD directly settles refugees in Sioux Falls, SD. Once a refugee is resettled, they are free to move to anywhere they please in the United States, this is called secondary migration. According to LSSSD’s 2017 Legislative Report direct resettlement numbers were: FY2013- 535; FY2014 – 536; FY2015-495; FY 2016-439; FY 2017-316. The largest demographic resettled in Sioux Falls are Bhutanese refugees. https://www.lsssd.org/what-we-do/family-services/center-for-new-americans/
The president of the United States determines how many refugees can be admitted to the United States. President Obama set that cap at 85,000 people in FY 2016. President Trump recently announced the cap would be 30,000 in FY 2019.
Understanding the refugee process, there is no process for someone from Central America, South America or Canada to be designated as a refugee. For people fleeing violence, persecution war based on the definition above, the legal process as defined by international law and US law is to enter the border of the United States and ask for asylum.