Guatemala received a visit from Vice President Joe Biden today, and heard the United States’ second in command give a warning to the Central American country regarding recent border crossings. The meeting was part of a larger symposium on the explosion of unaccompanied minors crossing the border sometimes alone, but always illegally.
According to Los Angeles Times reporter, Cindy Carcamo, Biden threatened that the United States would start detaining these undocumented minors and their parents if something was not done to help curb the crisis. Carcamo explained that the number of children flooding the borders is reaching to levels of a humanitarian crisis. Many states as California, Arizona, Texas and even Oklahoma have seen the brunt of the combination phenomenon and crisis. She explained so far this year more than 45,000 children were apprehended as they entered the United States alone.
“That number has doubled from last year, and the number could go high as 90,000 by the end of the year,” said Carcamo.
While the United States has never seen such numbers of unaccompanied minors cross the border at one time, the country’s Homeland Security Agency knows the origin of the unaccompanied minors. In fact, according to Carcamo, the agency has been burning up the phone lines talking with officials in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. The reason, most experts agree is the challenges for children in Central America and Mexico. Many families in these regions are afraid of murder, blackmail, and violent crimes associated with gangs. The thought of a better life for their children coupled with the belief that their children would be eligible under a United States deferred-deportation program, are the motivators behind families sending their children north.
There is no doubt Guatemalan President, Otto Perez Molina, will be forced to listen to Vice President Biden as he expresses his concerns about recent border crossings. After all, US President, Barack Obama has defined the mass of minors crossing the border as a crisis, and has even put the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on point to orchestrate a government response. In addition, the United States and Guatemala have a long-standing, bilateral relationship, which includes joint-operations in such areas combating drug trafficking, money-laundering, human smuggling.
“The administration has asked Congress for over $1 billion to assist in housing, feeding and transporting the undocumented minors,” reported the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, state’s facing the historic influx have been scrambling to organize makeshift accommodations for those apprehended by the US Customs and Border Agents. As a result, military bases in California, Texas and Oklahoma are being used to house the undocumented and unaccompanied minors. According to Fox News, many of these same facilities were used to house soldiers who were preparing to deploy during World War II.
“The current situation is not sustainable. We have a shared responsibility to take significant steps to address this issue,” said Biden following his meeting with Molina.
On his recent trip, Biden explained to Molina that America is also empathetic with the causes behind the recent flood of undocumented immigrants, including poverty, fear and the overall lack of law. In fact, the United States recently promised $93 million to help curb violence in Central America. Nearly half of that number is earmarked specifically for Guatemala.
While the Guatemala president listened to Biden on the recent border-crossing epidemic, he also presented a counter-offer. The politically savvy Central American president asked Biden to create some sort of temporary relief status for immigrants, and suggested the United States even undertake a temporary work program, setting the table for an ongoing dialogue between the two countries.
By Vincent Aviani