A day before meeting with President Obama at the White House to discuss the border crisis, the presidents of Honduras and Guatemala blamed the wave of unaccompanied children inundating the U.S. on American foreign policy and on gridlock in Congress over immigration reform.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said ambiguity in Washington’s immigration debate has helped human smugglers, called “coyotes,” convince Central Americans that they can stay in the U.S. if they make the long, illegal journey.
“That is a situation that the coyotes are very perversely taking very much an opportunity to exploit,” Mr. Hernandez, speaking through an interpreter, told reporters.
“We are committed to addressing their humanitarian needs. We are committed to due process for them,” said Mrs. Pelosi, referring to the border children. “In order for that to happen, we must pass the president’s request” for $3.7 billion to address the crisis.
According to White House officials speaking with reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity, the administration is considering making young Hondurans eligible for refugee status. Although no decision has been made, they said, such a move would allow youths to apply for that status at a U.S. facility in Honduras, potentially averting the chaos at the border.
Mr. Perez said human traffickers reportedly make $6,000 to $9,000 for each person they smuggle. “They’re making a lot of money, but through deception,” he said.
About 90,000 unaccompanied children, most of them from the three Central American countries, are expected to cross the border illegally this year. That number has spiked from about 8,000 annually.
Congress seems to be at an impasse over how to deal with the influx.
The Democrat-controlled Senate last year passed an immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The bill stalled in the Republican-controlled House, where conservatives have questioned Mr. Obama’s willingness to secure the border.
Mr. Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency spending, mostly for more immigration judges and more resources to care for the children, met similar objections. Members of both parties said the president’s request was excessive, rendering it all but dead on arrival in Congress.
Senate Democrats proposed a $2.7 billion bill.
House Republicans will meet Friday to consider how to proceed with their $1.5 billion plan. Democrats oppose the proposed repeal of a 2008 law that delays immigration hearings for unaccompanied children from Central America.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Pelosi previously supported changing the 2008 law but reversed course after hearing an outcry from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigration advocates.