WASHINGTON (AP) — A top Obama administration official says no one, not even children trying to escape violent countries, can illegally enter the United States without eventually facing deportation proceedings.
But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson basically acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the United States.
"Our border is not open to illegal migration, and we are taking a number of steps to address it, including turning people around faster," Johnson told NBC's "Meet the Press." At the same time, he said, the administration is "looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values."
Repeatedly pressed to say whether thousands of Central American children will be deported promptly, Johnson said, "We need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally, and we've already begun to do that."
The legal, political and logistical constraints of immigration policy dominated the Sunday talk shows.
More than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have been caught on the U.S.-Mexico border this year. Most are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where spikes in violence and poverty are prompting parents to send their children on difficult and dangerous journeys north.
Their numbers have overwhelmed federal agencies. When 140 would-be immigrants — mostly mothers with children — were flown to southern California to ease an overcrowded Texas facility, angry residents of Murrieta, California, greeted the bus as it pulled into town, complaining that they were being saddled with more than their share.
"This is a failure of diplomacy. It is a failure of leadership from the administration," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who sought the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said the administration "is one step behind" a major dilemma that was foreseeable. The number of children coming from Central America without adults has been rising dramatically for several years.