The leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador swept into Washington, D.C. with a message for the U.S. government: “We are here today because we want to put our case to the Congress, to President Obama, to the people of the United States to say that Central America as a zone of peace, as a zone free of drugs, as a land one of opportunity would be healthy and beneficial to us all,” said Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez at a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday.
At a meeting at the White House, Friday, a proposal to set up refugee centers for the thousands of child migrants coming from Central America dominated the talks.
U.S. is proposing to allow some to apply for refugee statusThe leaders of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Friday. They are looking for new ways to stem the flood of unaccompanied child migrants surging across the U.S.-Mexico border. CCTV America’s White House Correspondent Jessica Stone reports.
The U.S. says 57,000 have been apprehended in the past eight months at the U.S. Mexico border. The leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras agreed to explore the idea, but reacted with caution. The reality is that very few of the migrants coming to the U.S. would be eligible for refugee status.
Under U.S. Law, refugee status has narrow criteria, including persecution or threat of death. Central American leaders want to focus on the long-term solution: stopping drug trafficking, human smuggling and improving education so their citizens won’t leave in the first place.
On Thursday, he and the Guatemalan president as well as foreign ministers from all three nations laid out the reasons they believe thousands of children and women with babies are making a dangerous journey to the United States to gain citizenship.
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Luis Fernando Canera Castro told a panel at the Wilson Center it was a question of markets for the human smuggling rings known as coyotes. As fewer Mexicans tried to leave their country, he says, the coyotes moved South.
He also said that perceived changes in U.S. law had been used by the smugglers to encourage children to migrate with the idea that if they made it across the border, they would be allowed to stay inside the United States, similar to the so-called “dreamers: permitted deferred deportations.
President Hernandez said the smuggling routes follow drug trafficking routes, which exist, he said, to serve consumer demand for the United States. He also pointed out that the majority of the weapons in the hands of Central American gangs come from the United States.
White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest declined to answer a question about the level of American responsibility for contributing to a climate that Central American children would like to escape.
El Salvador’s Foreign Minister, Hugo Martinez said, his country and his neighbors need to be able to offer better education and technical training as well as greater security to make these children feel like they have a future in their home countries.
Foreign Minister, Mireya Aguera de Corales acknowledged that the ongoing gang violence discourages foreign investment and job creation in Honduras. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina lamented that the U.S. is now ranked as the seventh investor in his country, where it was once the lead investor. He called on the U.S. to reverse its course of spending billions of dollars for border protection and more on providing opportunities to Central American children.
The White House’s Josh Earnest also said that more U.S. economic aid is not off the table, but said: “There are already are American resources devoted to that effort.”