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Honduran President: Minors alone and detained in U.S. should return home

By Rosa Flores, CNN
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Honduran President wants detained, unaccompanied minors returned to Honduras
  • Statement comes after Honduran official called for U.S. to stop deporting Honduran children

(CNN) -- Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Wednesday said the country welcomes the return of its children detained while trying to enter the United States and has created an interagency committee to tackle the humanitarian crisis.

His comments appeared to expand on statements made earlier by a Foreign Ministry official who called for a proposal asking the United States to stop deporting Honduran children. Foreign Ministry spokesman Julio Lopez Tercero told CNN that the ministry, which is part of the interagency committee, plans to ask the U.S. government to allow children with parents in the United States to reunite in America. However, he said, some minors will end up deported, and in those cases, Honduran officials ask that deportation proceedings occur in a humane way.

In a statement released on the President's official website, Hernandez said, "The idea is to return these children and youth to Honduras once they've been located, and give them state support to get ahead." His office estimates that 13,000 of the minors could be Honduran.

The statement comes one day after Chancellor Mireya Aguero Corrales said she had instructed her country's embassy in Washington to draw up a plan to ask the United States to stop deporting children amid the humanitarian crisis.

Children without parents have been streaming across the Mexico-United States border in unprecedented numbers. Most of them are from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador.

Many have been smuggled north without official papers and hope to find their parents or family members already living in the United States. The ones apprehended by American authorities are often housed in shelters.

Federal law says minors cannot be held at a Border Patrol facility for more than 72 hours. They have to be processed and then either sent to live with a relative in the United States or released to a shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The refugee office operates about 100 permanent shelters for unaccompanied minors, according to spokesman Kenneth Wolfe. The shelters are filled to capacity.

The surge in children crossing the border has forced authorities to open three temporary shelters at military bases -- Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Naval Base Ventura County in California.

U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 and 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year.

Hernandez said he formed an interagency committee led by first lady Ana Garcia to find the thousands of Honduran children living in temporary American shelters.

The first lady made a call to parents, "asking them to take birth certificates, photos or any other pertinent document to prepare a dossier for each girl, boy and teenager. This will be tremendously helpful to us to get our kids repatriated." She says the overall goal is to reunite children with their parents.

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