The Obama administration is launching a public information campaign to inform Central Americans that it is not United States policy to allow unaccompanied children who cross the border illegally to remain in the country.
“We are working with our Central American partners, nongovernmental organizations, and other influential voices to send a clear message to potential migrants so that they understand the significant dangers of this journey and what they will experience in the United States,” Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders Monday.
The U.S. has experienced a surge of minors crossing the southern border, helped by the erroneous belief that such children are eligible for deferred status.
“These public information campaigns make clear that recently arriving individuals and children will be placed into removal proceedings, and are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process and earned citizenship provisions that are part of comprehensive immigration reform currently under consideration in the Congress,” Obama said.
The Obama administration's deferred action plan was adopted in 2012 for the children of illegal immigrants who had arrived in the United States before they turned 16; had graduated from high school or served in the military; had not been convicted of "significant" or "multiple" misdemeanors; and had not yet turned 30.
Republicans have criticized Obama for failing to make it clear that new unaccompanied children will not be eligible for deferred status.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday there has been a major "disinformation campaign," prompting the flood of unaccompanied children.
"The fact of the matter is, this administration is going to enforce the law," Earnest said.
Obama said he has spoken with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about both countries' duty to promote security in the region. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to talk about the matter and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will travel to Guatemala.
Obama is reportedly asking Congress for $2 billion to address the border crisis, though did not specify an amount in the letter.
The letter said the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security are deploying more enforcement resources to the border, including immigration judges, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement attorneys and asylum officers.
Obama said he's seeking congressional help to strengthen penalities against smugglers and to provide aid to the countries where the immigrants are fleeing.