WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Tuesday admitted that the arrival of undocumented Central Americans to the United States has increased over the past year due to “desperation” in the countries of the Northern Triangle, and he said that the strategy to stabilize those nations could take “a decade” to complete.
The arrival of undocumented Central Americans “spiked heavily in 2014, went down significantly in 2015, (has) gone back up this year – in part because there’s still desperation in Central America. But (it is) still not at the levels (it was) in 2014,” said Obama at a joint White House press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico rose by 23 percent during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016 – to 408,870 – over the same period the year before, the Department of Homeland Security reported on Monday.
That figure highlights the growth in immigration from Central America to the United States, a trend that reached its apex in terms of media coverage in the summer of 2014, when thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed the southern border.
During fiscal year before last – from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015 – 331,333 undocumented immigrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and were apprehended by the Border Patrol.
About 50 percent more unaccompanied children crossed the border during the past fiscal year and were taken into custody by the Border Patrol: 59,692 compared with 39,970 the year before.
Despite the increase, fewer minors crossed the border than in 2014, when 68,541 reportedly illegally entered the United States and were apprehended.
Obama commented on immigration from Central America in talking about the massive arrival in Europe of refugees from different countries, noting that the United States had also faced a huge flow of migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras over the past few years of his administration.
He said that two years ago he had tasked Vice President Joe Biden with coming up with “a development plan” along with the Northern Triangle countries to deal with the problems at the root of the emigration, including poverty and violence, and the United States increased its funding to help provide “more effective policing, ... fighting the narcotraffickers in a more effective way, investing in young people,” among other things.
“But that’s not going to happen overnight. That will be a decade- long process potentially,” the president said.
“In the meantime, we insist that those countries cooperate with us to send a message to the populations that it is a dangerous trip to reach the United States. And if you get here, you’re likely to be turned back, to try to discourage ... this dangerous passage but also to try to undermine the human traffickers who are preying on the desperation of these people to make money,” he added.