During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama listed Central America as an area of concern. A day earlier, the United States suspended its Peace Corps program in El Salvador over security concerns.
Yet, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will continue to conduct immigration raids aimed at Central Americans.
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The United States has recently announced that it will expand a refugee program it offers to vulnerable migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. As many as 3,000 Central Americans refugees will be welcomed to the United States this year.
"It's a series of chronic problems that run the gambit from nature to economic efficiency to criminality and poor governance that are coming together at the moment to cause people to be leaving in increasing numbers," an Obama administration official told McClatchy DC.
El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are three of the most violent countries in the world. In August alone, more than 900 people were murdered in El Salvador, a country about the size of Massachusetts.
The United States has pledged $750 million to help those three countries fight poverty and violence, as well as to reform their governments. Vice President Joe Biden is in Central America to meet with each country's president and discuss where the resources should be directed.
Many of the Central American families detained and deported by DHS have requested asylum because of violence in their home countries. More than 121 people were apprehended during immigration raids over the New Year's holiday, McClatchy reported.
Of the 337,117 apprehended by US Customs and Border Protection last year, 202,545 were from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Obama administration said it will honor humanitarian claims, but migrants who cannot show that they deserve refugee status should expect to be returned to their home countries.