Photo: Barack Obama (Pete Souza)
The unaccompanied Central American minors streaming into the United States across the Mexican border who don’t qualify for asylum will be repatriated, President Barack Obama said here Friday in a meeting with leaders from the region.
The American people have “great compassion” for the young migrants, but the children and their families must be discouraged from making the often dangerous trek, Obama told the presidents of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina; El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren; and Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The United States “is not only a country of immigrants,” it is also “a nation of laws,” Obama said after the meeting at the White House.
Regarding the possibility that some undocumented youngsters might receive refugee status, he pointed out that the United States admits only a limited number of refugees under strict criteria which largely exclude factors such as poverty.
“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” the president said.
“If that were the case, it would be better for them to be able to apply in-country rather than face a very dangerous journey all the way up to Texas to make those same claims,” Obama said a day after senior White House officials said the administration is considering an in-situ application program for Honduras, the most dangerous country in the world.
Obama insisted on the need to address poverty and violence in Central America, seen as the key factors in spurring nearly 60,000 minors to flee to the United States since last October.
“The leaders discussed how we can work together with other members of the international community to accelerate development, economic growth, and security improvements in the region and address the systemic factors that are causing Central American citizens to undertake the dangerous journey to the United States,” the White House said in a statement.