Obama Hauls Central American Leaders to White House to Order Them to Stop Immigration Flood–But They Blame Him for ‘Ambiguous’ Policies
Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail (London), July 25, 2014
President Barack Obama will meet with the leaders of the three Central American countries at the forefront of the illegal immigration debate this afternoon.
Obama will have a joint meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and El Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren to discuss their ‘shared responsibility’ to promote ‘safe, legal, and orderly migration’ to the America, according to the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden, who met with Molina and Ceren last month in Guatemala, will also attend today’s meeting at the White House.
White House officials said Thursday that president would impress upon the Central American countries that children who come to America without the proper documentation will eventually be sent home.
Honduras’ Hernandez said in turn that part of sharing responsibility for flood of unaccompanied minors leaving his country for the U.S. is for the president to clear up ‘the ambiguity’ surrounding the country’s immigration laws, including the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and to step up law enforcement efforts to shut down drug smugglers and cartels.
‘Here we have to say that the coyotes, the smugglers, who are very much a part of organized crime networks, perversely have sought to exploit those ambiguities and peddle a mistaken, a totally wrong interpretation to the parents of these children in saying, “You can get your kids in the U.S., we can do it for you,” ‘Hernandez said in remarks yesterday to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, according to the New York Times.
‘Those coyotes, those smugglers are nothing other than the human face of an enormous criminal monster that has one foot firmly in the camp of the drug lords and in Central America,’ Hernandez continued. The ‘second foot is here in the United States under American jurisdiction.’
During the meeting today Obama is expected to bring up the possibility of a pilot program that would set up screening centers inside Honduras so that children would know before they left the country whether or not they qualify for refugee status in the U.S.
White House officials said Thursday that program would not make changes to current refugee statutes, which most Honduran children do not qualify for, as it stands. It would merely establish a process within the children’s home country through which they can determine their immigration status before they make the 1,000 mile journey across the Mexico to the U.S.
Guatemalan President Molina said Thursday at a press conference in Washington that he was unaware of the proposal, but he would like the U.S. to extend any agreement it makes with Honduras or El Salvador to his country, as well.
‘We expect that the solution to this problem also is equal for the three countries,’ he said.
All three Central American countries are considered among the top five most dangerous in the world by the United Nations and each sees thousands of young people leave for the U.S. each year.
As of the end of May, U.S. Border Patrol and Customs had logged a record 13,244 apprehensions of unaccompanied Honduran minors, 11,449 Guatemalan children and 9,835 El Salvadorian youths at the border since the close of the last fiscal year.
That represents a more than 100 percent increase in the number of Honduran children who illegally entered the U.S. last year and an increase of more than 50 percent in El Salvadorian minors in the same time period. Apprehensions of Guatemalan youth ticked up the least.
The number of unaccompanied Mexican minors trying to enter the county illegally has declined this year, but it still remains high. Since October, 11,550 young Mexicans have been apprehended at the border compared with 17,219 last year.
Obama spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the phone last night. The White House says Obama applauded Nieto during their conversation for stepping up security along the country’s border with Guatemala and Belize.
Nieto announced last week that his country would open five new outposts on its southern border and crack down on people riding the the rails north.
Already, Mexico has doubled the number of children it apprehends at its border each day, but the country is only catching a small portion of unaccompanied minors compared to the number that show up on the U.S.’s doorstep every day.
The White House says Obama also reminded Nieto on the call that neither his immigration reform legislation nor his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program includes amnesty for newly arriving illegal immigrant children.
Obama’s meetings with Central American leaders in Washington this afternoon comes a day after they met with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
House Speaker John Boehner said the GOP’s meeting with Hernandez and Molina was ‘constructive’ and their ‘visit to Washington is further evidence of how seriously they are taking this situation.
‘I impressed upon them how important it is we all work together to end this crisis and reunite these children with their families in their home countries.
‘We continue to discuss our options with our colleagues, and remain firm in our commitment to find common ground and provide humanitarian relief,’ he said in a statement.
Republicans are meeting on Capitol Hill this morning to discuss a $1.5 billion bill to provide emergency funding to government agencies that handle immigration. President Obama has requested $3.7 billion, but neither Republicans nor Democrats have proposed plans to give him the full amount. Senate Democrats are considering a bill that would appropriate $2.7 billion toward the issue.
It’s unlikely that the House would take up the Senate bill, as the more conservative members have expressed dissatisfaction with the amount their caucus is willing to give the president. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today expressed hope that two chambers can pass a bill with ‘bipartisan cooperation’ that includes funding for most of the proposals outlined in Obama’s original request.
A major sticking point between the two parties’ bills is that Republicans’ legislation includes changes to a 2008 trafficking law that requires the U.S. to give children migrating to the U.S. who are not from Canada or Mexico due process before they can be repatriated.
The president and his administration support changes to the bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security the ability to give Central American children the option of voluntarily bypassing the court system and returning home once they’ve been notified of their rights.
Pelosi has said in the past that while she did not support changes to the bill, she would be open to them if it meant that Congress would fund the president’s emergency spending package before Congress leaves for recess at the end of next week.
The Democratic leader is now hedging on her willingness to accept Republican-issued changes to the law, saying today that the funding request and reforms to immigration policies are two different things entirely.
‘There’s no reason why they have to be tied,’ she said.
Pressed on whether she would vote for a package that included reforms to the 2008 law Pelosi told reporters: ‘I can’t answer that. When I see the bill I’ll let you know.’