White House announces steps to address immigrant surge

Updated: 2014-06-22 00:20


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WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday stepped up efforts to slow the flow of illegal children into the country, expanding the government's ability to process anddeport people and announcing new funding to boost security incrime-plagued Central American countries.

The Obama administration said it would boost the ranks ofimmigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers to quicklydecide what happens to people apprehended at the border and toreturn them to their home countries.

"We are surging resources to increase our capacity to detainindividuals and adults with children, and to handle immigrationcourt hearings," Homeland Security Deputy Director AlejandroMayorkas told reporters.

"This will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE - to return unlawful migrants from Central America who areordered removed to their home countries more quickly," he said.

Officials further announced $9.6 million in additionalsupport to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help themreceive and reintegrate people who are sent back.

In an effort to address the causes of flight from CentralAmerica, the administration said it would launch a $40 millionprogram to improve security in Guatemala and a $25 millionprogram to provide services to youth in El Salvador who arevulnerable to organized crime.

Washington has scrambled to address a flood of childrenarriving illegally at the border causing President Barack Obamahas called an urgent humanitarian crisis. The president took theissue up on Thursday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto,while Vice President Joe Biden was in Guatemala on Friday todiscuss the problem with Central American leaders.

"You're clearly not going to send a child back to acircumstance where there is no one there for them," Biden said. "But we do intend, and everyone agreed, it is necessary to putthem back in the hands of a parent in the country from whichthey came."

Cecilia Munoz, the White House domestic policy director,said that some of Friday's measures were designed to helpCentral American countries stem the migration.

Efforts aim to "deal with the misinformation that is beingdeliberately planted by criminal organizations, by smugglingnetworks, about what people can expect when they come to theUnited States," she told reporters.

From October to June 15, 52,000 unaccompanied childrenarrived on the U.S. border with Mexico, Mayorkas said. DHS islooking for more facilities to house the minors, he said.

Republicans blame the influx of children on Obama's 2012decision to give temporary relief from deportation to some youngpeople brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner urged Obama onFriday to deploy the National Guard to handle the children andrelieve the taxed Border Patrol. The White House's Earnestrejected that idea, saying there are already "significantenforcement resources" deployed along the border.