(Reuters) – President Barack Obama urged the leaders of three Central American countries on Friday to work with him to stem the flow of child migrants who have surged across the U.S. border and warned that most of them would not be allowed to stay.
In a White House meeting with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Obama had a tough-love message: his administration had compassion for the children, but not many would qualify for humanitarian relief or refugee status. Many of the migrants have fled poverty and crime at home.
The meeting came as Obama struggles to contain a border crisis triggered by the tens of thousands of children who have crossed the Texas border with Mexico in recent months. They have overwhelmed border resources and put election-year pressure on Obama to resolve it. “There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” Obama said after talks with the leaders. “But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number.”
Obama also said it is important to find solutions “that prevent smugglers from making money on families that feel desperate” and that make a dent in poverty in Central America. He would like to improve the U.S. legal immigration system in a way that “makes this underground migration system less necessary.” Obama and presidents Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras and Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador agreed to work together to attack the problem.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Hernandez said the migrant children with a parent in the United States had rights.
“They have rights, and we want them to be respected,” he said.
Washington needed to understand that the violence in Central America stemming from drug trafficking had enormous costs, he added. Obama acknowledged in the meeting that Washington had a responsibility to counter the drug trade.
Obama’s drive to tackle the migrant crisis with $3.7 billion in emergency government funds is in trouble because the deeply divided Congress leaves on a month-long recess late next week and is increasingly unlikely to approve the money.
Republicans want Democrats to agree to a change in a 2008 anti-trafficking law to speed deportations before agreeing to a pared-down version of Obama’s request. Democrats do not want to speed deportations of children with links to Hispanic-Americans, who are an important Democratic voting bloc.
One proposal under consideration at the White House is to start a pilot program in Honduras to permit children seeking refugee status in the United States to file a request while in their country.
“The idea here is that in order to deter them from making that dangerous journey, we’d set up a system in coordination with these host countries to allow those claims to be filed in that country without them having to make that dangerous journey,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
(Kurt) – The proposed program will never see the light of day, however, since members of the Obama Administration have already determined the President’s recent flood of executive orders is more than sufficient to warrant impeachment.
See, in politics, there’s no such thing as doing the right thing.