Obama administration defends handling of illegal migrant children as deportations rise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 7:53pm

As US authorities increase deportations of illegal migrants along the US border, a top Obama administration official has defended the White House's handling of a flood of undocumented children.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told NBC television's Meet the Press that officials have reduced the "turnaround times" for migrants illegally entering the country along the Mexican border.

"I believe we're going to stem this tide," said Johnson, who added that US President Barack Obama's administration was also intensifying efforts to discourage migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, from making the overland journey to the US.

"There are no free passes once you get here" for those entering the US without authorisation, Johnson warned.

The immigration issue gained new urgency in the United States after 52,000 unaccompanied minors crossed illegally into the US via America's southern border since October.

Obama is due to travel to Texas this week, but Johnson would not say whether he would visit border areas.

Meanwhile, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras - from which most of the child influx is coming - agreed to launch a multimedia and church-centred campaign against youths migrating illegally to the United States.

Texas congressman Henry Cuellar said holes in US law were to blame for the massive influx of migrants into his state.

"If you're a Mexican, you get sent back - mother, kids, adults, you're sent back," the Democratic lawmaker said.

"But if you're a non-contiguous country like the Central American countries, then the law says that you are going to be held by Health and Human Services, and they're going to place you," Cuellar told CNN's State of the Union.