TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Central American leaders will ask U.S. President Barack Obama to support a regional development and security plan to stem the tide of illegal child migrants to the United States at a meeting next week, a Honduran minister said on Saturday.
Presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras will meet with Obama on Friday to look for ways to curb a record-breaking exodus of Central American children, fleeing to the United States to escape violence and poverty.
Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them from Central America, and double last year’s count.
The surge in migration has sparked an intense debate over how to solve the problem.
“We need support for successful reintegration into work and schools and to keep track of these individuals and families so they don’t try again to immigrate to the United States,” Honduran Foreign Minister Mireya Aguero told local radio.
Aguero said she hopes the regional security initiative, which is supported by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Guatemala’s Otto Perez and El Salvador’s Salvador Sanchez Ceren, will be secured at the July 25 meeting.
The plan would be accompanied by an effort to better control borders and dismantle networks of coyotes who charge thousands of dollars to smuggle Central American migrants even if they are turned back at the U.S. border.
Last week, the United States flew home dozens of Central American children, after Obama pledged to speed up the deportation process.
Obama has asked lawmakers for $3.7 billion to pay for more border security, temporary detention centers and additional immigration court judges to process asylum cases and speed up deportations.
Central America has seen a wave of violence as Mexican drug cartels have battled for drug routes and extortion rackets through the region.
Thousands of Central American migrants have been streaming into the United States through Mexico, and those caught are being held in overcrowded detention facilities.
Honduran President Hernandez on Thursday said Washington should help the region fight gangs with a plan similar to U.S. anti-drug programs in Colombia and Mexico.
Reporting By Gustavo Palencia, Writing by Alexandra Alper,; Editing by Rosalind Russell