The ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is a "shared responsibility," President Obama said Friday after meeting with the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala at the White House on Friday.
The four leaders met to discuss what Obama described afterward as "the rise of unaccompanied children traveling from Central American countries to the U.S. border, leaving their homes in Central America and making a journey that poses great danger to themselves." The solution, Obama insisted, would require both continued compassion for the children crossing the border illegally and a commitment to deterring them from "putting themselves at great risk."
"I'm confident that we're going to be able to solve this problem," Obama said Friday after the meeting, according to an official statement, but "we have to do more to address the root causes of the problem," including poverty and violence in Central America. To that end, Obama expressed a renewed commitment to developing "more aggressive action plans to improve security and development and governance in these countries."
Amid a flurry of reports that his administration is considering granting refugee status to the unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border from Central America, Obama reiterated that those crossing illegally without "proper claims" for refugee status would be "subject to repatriation to their home countries." Others, however, may be eligible for refugee status in the United States.
"There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or a refugee status that a family might be eligible for," Obama explained, but urged those who might apply to do so from their countries of residence, "rather than take a very dangerous journey all the way up to Texas to make those same claims."
Obama urged House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow House Republicans to stick around long enough "to help solve this problem" before heading out on their August recess, noting that a "supplemental request that is working its way through Congress" to address the financial implications associated with the border crisis.
In describing the meeting with the three presidents, Obama said that each leader explained the "degree to which they have already begun to make efforts to discourage this dangerous trafficking in children," and boasted that, "our joint efforts appear to be paying off." "The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border this month appears to have dropped by half since June," Obama said.