Vice President Biden departs today for Latin America, where he'll visit Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. In Brazil, he'll head to the World Cup to watch a soccer game. In Guatemala, he'll address "misperceptions about U.S. immigration policy," according to a White House official.
"[O]n Friday, the Vice President will travel to Guatemala where he will meet with President Pérez Molina, and he will also meet with President Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador and the senior representative of the Honduran government, Coordinator General Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro, to address the rise and flow of unaccompanied children to the United States, to discuss our security and economic support for the countries of Central America, and more generally, to increase our cooperation in the region," an anonymous White House official told reporters about the vice president's trip.
"And on the issue of unaccompanied children, let me just say a few words. The surge of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is an issue of great concern to us. The children making this long journey are some of the most vulnerable individuals, and many become victims of violent crime and sexual abuse. We’re seeing growing numbers of children under 12 and girls in the latest surge. Our top priority is to manage this urgent humanitarian situation.
"The entire U.S. administration is engaged in addressing the situation and making sure these children are housed, fed and receive necessary medical treatment. But at the same time, we also realize that crucial importance of stemming the tide of migration. And here we see two primary factors -- first, the sustained violence in Central America, and the lack of economic opportunities there, second."
"There are also then some reports about the misperception of U.S. immigration policy. As Secretary Johnson made clear yesterday, these migrant children are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, what’s called the DACA process, or pending immigration legislation. We ask families and communities to think twice before sending their children on this very dangerous journey. This is an important factor in thinking about how to address this problem.
"The Vice President will be making this trip to Guatemala to discuss both the violence and economic opportunity side, and the misperceptions of the U.S. immigration policy. We’re looking for ways to enhance our existing work with those countries to address some of the root causes (inaudible.) And while we provide humanitarian relief to these children in the short term, unaccompanied immigrant minors are still going through removal proceedings just like anyone that crosses the border without proper documentation. Each case is evaluated individually and handled on a case-by-case basis.
"So while he’s there in Guatemala, he will emphasize that illegal immigration is not safe; that putting your child in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization is not safe. And he will make clear that the recently arriving children are not eligible for DACA or earned citizenship provisions in current immigration reform legislation. The bottom line is that it’s not worth subjecting children to a perilous journey when, at the end of the day, there is no light at the end of the tunnel."