WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Joe Biden is making a trip to Brazil for the World Cup -- but he’s also making stops in Central America to figure out how to deal with the unaccompanied minors situation facing the nation.
Biden had long planned to attend Monday’s U.S.-Ghana World Cup match in Brazil, and then planned to visit Colombia and the Dominican Republic. But on Sunday the administration announced he was adding Guatemala to his schedule.
Administration officials said he planned to highlight the plight of unaccompanied minors trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and stress that the children were being placed in grave danger. He also plans to make clear that the children were not receiving special treatment in the U.S. and would likely face deportation once they cross the border.
Biden plans to meet with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on Friday to deal with the escalating humanitarian crisis.
“While he’s there in Guatemala he will emphasize that illegal immigration is not safe,” an anonymous senior official said. “That putting your child in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization is not safe. And he will make clear that recently arriving children are not eligible for [the deferred deportation program] or earned citizenship provisions in current immigration reform legislation.”
The number of unaccompanied minors from Central America has soared more than 1,000 percent amid rampant crime and poverty in those countries, according to Border Patrol data. This year border agents have apprehended 48,000 children from those three countries.
"The surge of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is an issue of great concern to us,” the official said. “The children making this long journey are some of the most vulnerable individuals, and many become victims of violent crime and sexual abuse.”
President Barack Obama has called the surge a crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.