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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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UN to Aid With Central American Refugees

HOUSTON (CN) - The United Nations will help the U.S. government set up processing centers in Latin America to stop refugees from coming to the nation's southwestern border.

The program's goal is to avert another humanitarian crisis like the summer of 2014, when tens of thousands of refugees - mostly women and children - fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala traveled to the United States and turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents, according to the New York Times.

The mass exodus forced the government to open temporary shelters and use military bases to hold the refugees, who were too numerous to house in federal immigration jails.

The refugee program will be announced on Wednesday by Secretary of State John Kerry, the Times reported.

Obama administration officials didn't say exactly where the processing centers will be established, but told the Times that Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize are in the running.

Obama's immigration policies are under fire from 140 Democratic lawmakers, who issued a letter on Tuesday blasting the administration for detaining 121immigrant women and children in raids carried out over the New Year's Day weekend.

The lawmakers complained that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unfairly deporting the refugees, most of whom don't have attorneys to fight their deportations back to nations torn by gang violence and plagued by poverty.

An unexpected surge in Border Patrol detentions of unaccompanied migrant children in Texas in October and November 2015 - which more than doubled from 3,256 to 6,756 compared to those months in 2014 - prompted the government to seek help from the United Nations, the Houston Chronicle and New York Times reported.

The goal of the program is to stop desperate refugees from paying coyotes to guide them through Mexico to the United States.

Administration officials told the Times that as many as 9,000 refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras could be settled in the United States each year after they are screened at the U.N. processing centers.

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