(WASHINGTON) -- Meeting at the White House on Friday, President Obama told Central American presidents that they have a “shared responsibility” to do everything they can to stem the flow of migrant children flooding across the border. Obama warned that children without proper claims to stay in the U.S. will likely be sent back to their home countries.
“I say that not because we lack compassion, but because, in addition to being a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws,” Obama told reporters as he sat alongside President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador.
“And if you have a disorderly and dangerous process of migration, that not only puts the children themselves at risk, but it also calls to question the legal immigration process of those who are properly applying and trying to enter into our country,” he added.
Obama also suggested the U.S. could create a refugee program in Central America, explaining “there may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for.”
“If that were the case, it would be better for them to be able to apply in country rather than take a very dangerous journey all the way up to Texas to make those same claims,” he said, adding that such a program “would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.”
Obama thanked his counterparts for their efforts to discourage parents from sending their children on this dangerous journey and for working with the U.S. on repatriating the children and families in an orderly way.
“Initial reports show that our joint efforts appear to be paying off, and the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border this month appears to have dropped by half since June,” he said.
As lawmakers prepare to leave town, Obama urged Republicans to act on his request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to tackle the crisis at the border.
“It is my hope that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans will not leave town for the month of August for their vacations without doing something to help solve this problem,” he said.
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