TEGUCIGALPA: After meeting US President Barack Obama in Washington, Honduran President Juan Hernandez sees little hope of an immediate solution to stemming a wave of child migrants fleeing misery and violence in Central America for the United States.
Joined by his counterparts from El Salvador and Guatemala, Hernandez met with Obama and US lawmakers last week to discuss how to confront an unprecedented surge in child migrants that has overwhelmed border resources and ignited a fierce political debate in the United States over what to do with the children. In an interview with Reuters, Hernandez said Obama offered the presidents no explicit help. The Honduran leader said political bickering between Democratic and Republican lawmakers was killing the chances of any short or long-term fix to the crisis.
“I haven’t lost hope, but I thought by this stage, we would already have our first concrete results in terms of dealing with this crisis,” Hernandez said late on Thursday in his dark-wood, oval shaped office at the presidential residence. “This is a huge monster with one foot in Central America and Mexico, and the other foot in the United States,” he said. “As time passes, this problem is only going to get worse.”
Obama wants $3.7 billion in emergency government funds to tackle the child migrant crisis, but the deeply divided Congress, which is due to leave for its summer recess on Friday, has not yet decided whether to approve it.
If approved, Hernandez said, Honduras, a poor and violent country with the world’s highest murder rate, would see about $300 million of that money to spend on receiving children and their families and reintegrate them into society.
“President Obama is urging Congress to approve resources,” Hernandez said. “But the problem is that in Congress, on the side of the Republicans, we’re not hearing the same, and for a definitive solution to be reached ... they need to work in unison and I don’t feel that is happening.” Republicans want to beef up security on the US-Mexican border to curb the influx of migrants and change a 2008 law so that immigrants can be deported more quickly. They have also criticized Obama for not acting fast enough to get to grips with the crisis.
The chances of reaching a bipartisan solution in Washington is further complicated by the fact that both parties have their eye on the 2016 election, Hernandez said.
To be sure, successive Honduran governments have failed to curb the exodus northward and lower violence.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have been apprehended at the US border since last October. Many are fleeing intractable poverty and widespread gang violence that has turned parts of Central America into one of the most lawless regions in the world.
According to the United Nations, Honduras saw 90.4 murders per 100,000 people in 2012, way higher than any other country. For many years, gangs like “Calle 18” and “Mara Salvatrucha” have run riot across the country, extorting, selling drugs and running guns. Formed in the 1980s in US prisons by Central American migrants, the gangs later blossomed into international franchises as members were deported back home.
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