WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday urged the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to exercise what he called their “shared responsibility” to help stem the flow of migrant children toward the United States border, but the Central American leaders said America shares some of the blame for the crisis.
After a 90-minute meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Mr. Obama told reporters that he and his counterparts had talked about the fates of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who have been pouring across the border with Mexico.
“Children who do not have proper claims and families with children who do not have proper claims at some point will be subject to repatriation to their home countries,” Mr. Obama said.
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A Border Patrol agent with a 13-year-old Salvadoran who had crossed the Rio Grande into Texas.Most Migrant Children Entering U.S. Are Now With Relatives, Data ShowJULY 25, 2014 Sisters and a friend from Honduras, ages 13, 14 and 16, along Mexico’s southern border this month, en route to the United States.U.S. Considering Refugee Status for HonduransJULY 24, 2014 Immigrants detained this week in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry plans to send 1,000 National Guard troops to help with the border crisis.National Guard in Texas Could Get Arrest PowerJULY 24, 2014 Rush to Deport Young Migrants Could Trample Asylum ClaimsJULY 19, 2014 Father Jack Barker of St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Murrieta, Calif., spoke at a vigil.U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Immigrant ChildrenJULY 23, 2014 “The American people and my administration have great compassion for these children and want to make sure that they are cared for,” Mr. Obama said he told the presidents. “But I also emphasized to my friends here that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at great risk.”
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PLAY VIDEO|4:03 In Mexico, a Stalled Journey In Mexico, a Stalled Journey While thousands of child migrants from Central America have crossed the Rio Grande to U.S. soil, thousands more don’t make it that far. Many end up detained or broke in towns like Reynosa, Mexico. Video by Brent McDonald on Publish Date July 19, 2014. Mr. Obama called the meeting with Presidents Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador to try to strike at the root causes of what he has called a humanitarian crisis on the border between Mexico and the United States.
Mr. Obama said the Central American presidents are “excellent partners,” and thanked them for their efforts to discourage children from making the dangerous journey to the United States. But he also urged them to do more to combat the smugglers who, for a price, are transporting the children.
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Letters: The Child Migrants at the BorderJULY 23, 2014 Op-Ed Contributor: Why the Border Crisis Is a MythJULY 25, 2014 But in comments to reporters after the meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Hernández of Honduras said that the United States must accept that demand for illegal drugs in America is in part responsible for the violence that is causing the migrants to flee their homes in Central America. He called on the United States to help his country address what he called the root of the issue.
Continue reading the main story GRAPHIC Children at the Border The number of children crossing the U.S. border alone has doubled since last year. Answers to key questions on the crisis.
OPEN GRAPHIC “Washington must understand that if you have a Central America with violence because of the drug traffic crime, a Central America without opportunities, without growth in the economy, it is going to always be a problem for the United States,” Mr. Hernandez said, as translated from Spanish by one of his aides.
In a joint statement by the four presidents issued by the White House after the meeting, the leaders pledged to “address the underlying causes of migration by reducing criminal activity and promoting greater social and economic opportunity.” But the White House did not make any announcements about further economic aid for Central America beyond what they have requested from Congress in recent weeks.
The meeting came as the administration continues to press Congress for more resources and authority to confront the flood of migrants, especially children, who have crossed into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas in recent months. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children and thousands more adults with children have crossed the border since October.