Obama asked the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to work jointly to fight this crisis.
Halfway between the desire to help and the limited political freedom to effect change, President Barack Obama warned that migrant children who don't qualify for staying will be returned to their home countries. However, he offered his "help" to the Central American countries from where the children come so as to fight this crisis jointly.
The double message came as a corollary of an unprecedented meeting with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in which the Democrat leader was able to counter the initial objections and reach a lukewarm level of support and a "commitment" to work jointly to stop the trafficking of minors.
"We expressed our commitment to work together in a spirit of shared responsibility to address the underlying causes of migration," he said after over two hours of deliberation. However, the idea of working toward "reducing criminal activity and promoting greater social and economic opportunity," as factors that contribute to children's desperate migration to the U.S., was too ambiguous for many.
It wasn't a ceremonious diplomatic encounter or a good moment for Obama, who received all three heads of state, while at the same time pressuring Congress to approve the $370 million aid package that he asked for to solve the crisis.
That project is still at a standstill, due to Republican resistance, and it is at risk of not being resolved before the Capitol goes into summer recess next week.
"Minors that don't qualify to remain in the United States will be deported," the head of state said, upon finishing his meeting with the presidents of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén; Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina; and Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández.
The White House's objective is to stop the trafficking of unaccompanied minor coming from those countries as soon as possible. Them not being deported immediately caused a collapse in the shelters; it also left the Obama administration in a jam and open to Republican criticism.
The White House asked the three Central American countries to stop the trafficking and that they commit to perform a joint task. But, before starting the meeting, their governments expressed their disappointment in the lack of help provided to fight international violence. "The plans drafted to that end were never completely fulfilled," Pérez Molina said. He referred specifically to the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). "So far, that promise is little more than mockery" said Honduran President Hérnandez.
Somehow, Obama was able to exert enough pressure to counter that resistance and start up the joint commitment. "We leave satisfied," said Pérez Molina eventually. "We are studying the possibility of providing more financial help, but, in this case, the responsibility of the governments must be clear," said Democratic senator and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Robert Menendez.*
Along those lines, officials of the Democratic administration opened a window with a promise of a plan to accept as "refugees" those minors who, according to their home countries, qualify for such help.
It's not a very broad window. "It's a pilot program and, so far, reduced in scope", the officials said to the foreign correspondents, among them, La Nación.* In fact, the visiting presidents didn't seem to be very aware of the program’s reach before arriving at the Oval Office.
The face-to-face meeting with the three presidents was the result of many months of diplomatic effort. Mexican head of state, Enrique Peña Nieto, was also involved, however separately.
A President on the Defensive
The crisis of the migrant children became fuel for the Republicans to reproach Obama, which put him on the defensive.
*Editor's note: The original quotations, accurately translated, could not be verified.