More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador
and Honduras have been caught trying to sneak over the U.S.-Mexico
border since October, double the number from the same period the
year before. Thousands more have been apprehended with parents or
"We have to do right by the children, but at the end of the day, our
border is not open to illegal migration and we will stem the tide,"
Jeh Johnson, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, said on NBC's
"Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Johnson said that the government administers deportation proceedings
to illegal migrants seized at the border, including children. But he
added that the government is looking at being more flexible toward
the children seized at the border.
"We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing
with the children, in particular, consistent with our laws and our
values," Johnson said.
Johnson repeated the stance, taken by President Barack Obama last
week, that the president would take executive action to revamp the
U.S. immigration system.
"There are a number of things the president and I, within the
confines of existing law, can do to fix the broken immigration
system. If Congress doesn't act, we will," Johnson said.
Johnson would not answer a question on the Sunday show pertaining to
whether the U.S. government would deport the current wave of Central
American children, saying only that U.S. authorities would stem the
tide, and that deportation processes are commenced against illegal
U.S. immigration officials say the crisis is being driven by a mix
of extreme poverty, gangs and drug violence in Central America, as
well as rumors perpetuated by human smugglers that children who
reach the U.S. border will be allowed to stay.
Critics say that the Obama administration has not moved quickly
enough to address the problem.
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Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose congressional
district includes a stretch of the Texas-Mexico border, said on
CNN's "State of the Union" program that 48,000 people, including
9,700 children traveling without parents, were detained on the Texas
border in May. "We should have been ready for this surge," he said.
"The administration should have been ready ... They should have seen
this coming a long time ago."
Idaho Representative Raul Labrador, a Republican, said the U.S.
needs to take a strong stance against what is happening at border
"The thing that the administration needs to do is immediately deport
these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh, I know it
sounds difficult, but they're creating a crisis that's going to harm
these children," he said on "Meet the Press."
Labrador added that the frustration building up is because the
administration is doing nothing about border security.
(Reporting by Michael Flaherty; Editing by Jim Loney and Frances
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