Vice President Joe Biden has been meeting with Central American leaders to discuss the influx of child immigrants at the southern border, noting “there was unanimity that the current situation is untenable and unsustainable.”
Speaking at a Friday news conference, in Guatemala City, Biden said all parties “agreed that this is a matter of shared responsibility — not just the United States, but shared responsibility of every Central American country and Mexico.”
“I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine the desperation that leads a parent in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, to put their son or daughter in the hands of these criminals to take them on a perilous, hundred- and in some case thousand-mile journey to the border of the United States,” he said. “…Many are driven by lack of physical security.”
Thus, he said, the United States plans to provide $160 million more dollars this year for the Central American Regional Security Initiative to help countries improve citizen safety, governance and border security.
Washington will also move forward on projects totaling $83.5 million this year. “In addition to improve citizen safety in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This includes over $40 million over the next several years to Guatemala to target hotspot communities to reduce the risks, the risk factors for youth involved in gangs and drugs,” Biden said.
“I presented today a map to all the leaders showing a direct correlation between the number of unaccompanied minors and where they came from. It directly correlates to the most dangerous cities in Central America. You can just map it. It’s clear. And so as I said, it’s incredibly important that we do our part to provide this kind of funding,” he added.
Another cause of the stepped-up illegal immigration, Biden continued, is “lack of economic opportunity.”
“That’s been a story. Long before narcotrafficking — a major problem in Central America, there was still tens of thousands of people over time — Central America to the United States. So it’s not just — it’s not just narcotraffickers and violence,” he said. “That’s why in addition to our longstanding efforts to increase trade and regional economic integration, USAID will create a new public-private partnership through the Global Development Alliance mobilizing the expertise of businesses and local civil society to help reach at-risk youth.”
That includes working with Central American governments on “how to create boys and girls clubs, how to deal with violence against women, how to vet police forces so their corruption is eliminated.”
“Everyone agreed that these children should be reunited by their — with their parents, with their parents in the country from which they came. Everyone agreed to that. You’re clearly not going to send a child back to a circumstance where there is no one there for them. 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,” Biden said.
“Look, as I said, the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, this is what they’re doing. They are enhancing the enforcement and removal proceedings because those who are pondering risking their lives to reach the United States should be aware of what awaits them. It will not be open arms. It will not be come on — it will be, we’re going to hold hearings with our judges consistent with international law and American law, and we’re going to send the vast majority of you back.”
Biden said it wasn’t the deferred immigration enforcement on young illegal immigrants that was driving the migrant wave, but “misinformation smugglers are propagating about U.S. immigration policy.”
“These minors that have recently come are not eligible — they are not eligible to what’s referred to as deferred action. A deferred action process. Not if they arrived in the past seven years. Let’s get this straight. Any minor who arrived in the past seven years is not eligible for deferred action,” he said. “No new immigrant since 2011 is eligible for the earned citizenship provisions proposed in the comprehensive U.S. immigration reform pending before Congress. Right, wrong, or indifferent — those are the facts.”