(Reuters) – 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 and deport people and announcing new funding to boost security in crime-plagued Central American countries.
The Obama administration said it would boost the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers to quickly decide what happens to people apprehended at the border and to return them to their home countries.
“We are surging resources to increase our capacity to detain individuals and adults with children, and to handle immigration court hearings,” Homeland Security Deputy Director Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters.
“This will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – to return unlawful migrants from Central America who are ordered removed to their home countries more quickly,” he said.
Officials further announced $9.6 million in additional support to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help them receive and reintegrate people who are sent back.
In an effort to address the causes of flight from Central America, the administration said it would launch a $40 million program to improve security in Guatemala and a $25 million program to provide services to youth in El Salvador who are vulnerable to organized crime.
Washington has scrambled to address a flood of children arriving illegally at the border causing President Barack Obama has called an urgent humanitarian crisis. The president took the issue up on Thursday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, while Vice President Joe Biden was in Guatemala on Friday to discuss the problem with Central American leaders.
“You’re clearly not going to send a child back to a circumstance where there is no one there for them,” Biden said. “But we do intend, and everyone agreed, it is necessary to put them back in the hands of a parent in the country from which they came.”
Cecilia Munoz, the White House domestic policy director, said that some of Friday’s measures were designed to help Central American countries stem the migration.