President Barack Obama and the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador met at the White House on Friday to discuss an ongoing crisis at the United States border with Mexico. While Obama expressed sympathy for the thousands of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border, he warned the Central American leaders that those apprehended would be deported back to their home countries, barring legitimate humanitarian claims.
"Children who do not have proper claims and families with children who do not have proper claims at some point will be subject to repatriation to their home countries," Obama said in a press conference covered by The New York Times. "The American people and my administration have great compassion for these children and want to make sure that they are cared for, but I also emphasized to my friends here that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at great risk."
Obama's counterparts said that the reason so many children are putting themselves at that risk is because violence stemming from illegal drug trafficking has made their home countries more dangerous than the journey north.
"Washington must understand that if you have a Central America with violence because of the drug traffic crime, a Central America without opportunities, it is going to always be a problem for the United States," Juan Orlando Hernandez, president of Honduras, said through a translator.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border since October, and the issue has divided Capitol Hill Democrats and Republicans.