The deportation of 40 women and children to Honduras is a sign that illegal immigrants to the United States will not be welcomed with "open arms", the White House says.
The immigrants, sent home from a holding facility in the state of New Mexico on Monday, became a high-profile symbol of the Obama administration's efforts to stem a tide of minors crossing into the United States from Central America.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the flight should serve as a clear signal to parents in Central America considering sending their children on the hazardous journey north. Earnest said the move was a "reflection of the effort that this administration has made to increase the resources that are used to deal with this surge that we've seen in recent days".
Obama has asked Congress for US$3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the building crisis that has seen 57,000 unaccompanied minors, some fleeing violence, poverty and persecution at home, cross the southwestern US border since October.
Obama visited Texas last week and publicly warned parents in Central America not to send their children to the United States on a trek often organised by smuggling rings.
He also ignored Republican demands to visit the border himself - saying he was more interested in finding solutions than photo-ops.
Republicans have, however, balked at Obama's plan - charging it wrongly prioritises dealing with illegal immigrants who have already crossed the border rather than deterring new entrants.
Monday's flight was just the first of what US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said would be regular repatriations of illegal immigrants to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, officials said.
All those returned home were offered due process. The White House says a comprehensive system is in place to assess whether any illegal migrants are eligible for asylum.
The border crisis was a final blow to Obama's hopes of getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress this year.