The financial pledges also include $9.6 million to help Central American governments receive and integrate deported immigrants, $25 million in El Salvador to create 77 outreach centers to prevent at-risk youth from joining gangs or migrating to the U.S., and $18.5 million in Honduras to fight gangs and support community policing.
Perez Molina, however, took a view that seemed to undermine Biden’s message. The Guatemalan president said via his Twitter account that Biden had promised a special program of legal assistance to Guatemalan families in the U.S. who are reunited with their children.
The Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, didn’t attend the meeting, going instead to Brazil for the World Cup, in which the Honduran national soccer team is competing. That drew a miffed rebuke from the U.S. ambassador to Honduras.
Congressional officials greeted the new administration measures with a mix of skepticism and relief.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, has been calling for some of the same measures, and said he was pleased to see the administration moving to work with Central American leaders to deport families in a quick, humane way.
Cuellar discussed the crisis with Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson before Johnson traveled to Texas on Friday with a group of senior administration officials to visit Border Patrol facilities and a new temporary shelter for immigrant youths here at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
“I’m encouraged that the White House is now getting engaged on this humanitarian crisis,” Cuellar said. “They’re starting to move in the right direction.”
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., welcomed the administration taking a “hard look at addressing the root causes of this crisis” but expressed concern about opening new family detention facilities.
“To say that a child who is apprehended at the border with their parent must remain locked up throughout their judicial proceeding is simply a step too far,” he said.