The White House said Tuesday that the arrival this week in Honduras of the first flight of undocumented adults and children that had entered the U.S. illegally will send a clear message to potential migrants that “they will not be welcome to this country with open arms.”
The deportation of the first group of Central American immigrants who recently crossed the southern border into the U.S. reflects the commitment of President Barack Obama’s administration to “prioritize” repatriation, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
The return of migrants to Honduras should send a clear message to individuals planning to make the dangerous journey from Central America to the United States, or who consider putting their children in the hands of migrant traffickers, that “they’re entitled to due process but they will not be welcome to this country with open arms,” Earnest said.
The spokesman recalled that the plane was full of “family units,” in other words, individuals who tried to enter the country without documents and were traveling with one or more children, but he did not say whether in the future they might send flights carrying children only back to Central America.
Department of Homeland Security officials told Efe on Monday that the first flight represents the initial phase of the process of deporting undocumented persons who entered the country in recent months from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and said there will be more repatriations in the coming weeks.
Immigration authorities have deported some 87,000 Central Americans between September 2013 and this month, according to the White House.
The law does not allow the immediate deportation of unaccompanied Central American children who are intercepted by the Border Patrol, which is obliged to leave them in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services to begin their deportation process, which can take months or even years.
To speed up the process, the Justice Department announced last week that it will contract more judges and reassign other magistrates to the immigration courts.