Latin America & Caribbean

US boosts aid to Central America to cope with migrants

Central American migrants in Mexico City calling for free passage for illegal migrants transiting Mexico. 23/04/2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption The number of migrants from Central America to the United States has doubled from last year

The United States is boosting aid and speeding up deportations to cope with the growing number of migrants from Central America.

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras will all receive millions of dollars to combat gang violence.

The money will also be used to help citizens repatriated from the US

The White House said it would also step-up the removal of illegal migrants from the country and open additional detention centres.

But, in a statement, it added it would protect the rights of those seeking asylum.

From October 2013 to 15 June, 52,000 unaccompanied children arrived on the US border with Mexico, according to the US Homeland Security department.

The agency is looking for more facilities to house the minors and has said it will bring more immigration lawyers to the border to deal with the influx.

It is believed that criminal violence is responsible for the surge of Central American migrants, especially from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

But the US has also begun a public-relations campaign to clarify a recent policy change that stopped deportations of people who had previously arrived in the US illegally as children.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Barack Obama has called the influx of migrant children an "urgent humanitarian situation"

"All who enter the United States without proper immigration status are subject to deportation proceedings," US Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne said on Thursday.

"Simply put, there is no reward for the great risk to which these children are being subjected."

Cecilia Munoz, the White House domestic policy director, said in a conference call that the US is trying to "deal with the misinformation that is being deliberately planted by criminal organisations, by smuggling networks, about what people can expect when they come to the United States".

Republican House Speaker John Boehner placed the blame for the influx squarely on the White House, saying its policies had "directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach US soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely".

Mr Boehner called for Mr Obama to order the National Guard to the southern US border to bolster the work of the Department of Homeland Security border patrol.

On Friday, the Obama administration also announced $93m (£54m) in new programmes to reduce violence in the region.

The funding includes $40m to reduce gang membership in Guatemala, $25m to build youth outreach centres in El Salvador and $18.5m to build youth outreach centres in Honduras.

US Vice-President Joe Biden arrived in Guatemala on Friday to discuss the proposals with the country's President Otto Perez Molina, Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez and senior officials from Honduras and Mexico.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama described the growing influx of unaccompanied children migrating to the United States as an "urgent humanitarian situation".

The White House asked Congress for an extra $1.4bn to cope with the situation.

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