June 26, 2018 / 6:57 PM / in 24 days

Pence warns Central Americans to immigrate legally or not at all

BRASILIA (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said during the first stop of a Latin American tour on Tuesday that if Central Americans thinking of immigrating to the United States “can’t come legally, don’t come at all.”

Earlier, a White House aide told reporters that Pence will meet with the presidents of Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of El Salvador on Thursday in Guatemala to discuss the immigration issue on the U.S. southern border.

Pence will be joined in the immigration talks by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The meeting will take place a week after President Donald Trump’s abrupt order to end his policy of breaking up families who crossed the U.S. border illegally, which had prompted a global outcry.

Trump’s executive order did not explain how his aggressive immigration policies could be adjusted to keep families intact, house them and assess their legal status, adding chaos to the immigration debate in Congress.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil June 26, 2018. REUTES/Adriano Machado

“To the people of Central America, I have a message for you,” Pence said in Brasilia. “Don’t risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on a road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers. If you can’t come legally, don’t come at all.”

Pence met on Tuesday with Brazilian President Michel Temer. In joint press statements the two said they spoke extensively about the situation in Venezuela, where ongoing political and economic crises have prompted millions of Venezuelans to flee their homeland in recent years.

“Venezuela’s collapse is creating a humanitarian crisis,” Pence said, adding that the U.S. government would provide nearly $10 million in fresh aid to Venezuelan migrants in the region.

Pence and Temer also discussed how to strengthen trade and business ties between the two largest economies in the Americas.

Temer also said that his government could help with transportation to Brazil for the roughly 50 Brazilian migrant children separated from their parents upon entering the United States in recent weeks, if the families want to return home.

On Wednesday, Pence is expected to visit the Brazilian city of Manaus in the Amazon rainforest, where he is scheduled to meet migrants from Venezuela, before traveling to Ecuador.

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Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Susan Thomas and Phil Berlowitz

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