The U.S. will expand its refugee program in Central America, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday. The new program will rely on U.N. screening centers and shelters, where asylum seekers can receive initial interviews and temporary lodging. Officials are still sorting out the details of the program, but screening centers could be located in neighboring countries such as Belize and Costa Rica, NYT reports. Kerry hopes that the program will reduce human trafficking.

"I am pleased to announce plans to expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to help vulnerable families and individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” Kerry said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. adding that the plans would offer “safe and legal alternative to the dangerous journey many are currently tempted to begin, making them easy prey for human smugglers who have no interest but their own profits.”

The State Department has tried in the past to get minors and families with relatives in the U.S. to apply for asylum at American offices in their own countries, but of the thousands that have signed up, only a handful have made it to the U.S. If successful, this new program could also help the U.S. divert migrants to other countries in the Americas, such as Canada and Brazil.

Kerry’s announcement follows increasing criticism from some Democrats over a recent spate of deportations of self-described refugees, along with anger of ther the way it handles asylum-seeker claims. Dozens of lawmakers authored letter saying that the U.S. was inhumanely” deporting refugees.

Kerry also appeared to fend off criticism from Republicans, who say that the refugee program is not thorough enough to screen out potential terrorists.

“We can both maintain the highest security standards and live up to our best traditions as Americans by welcoming those in need of our help to this great country of ours,” said Kerry, according to the Washington Post. “That’s who we are. That’s what we do.”