Central America demands information on still-separated migrant children

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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Officials from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico on Thursday called on the United States to provide more details on migrant children still separated from their parents.

Undocumented immigrant families walk from a bus depot to a respite center after being released from detention in McAllen, Texas, U.S., July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The officials held talks with James McCament, a deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in Tegucigalpa to seek more information on families that were separated as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.

Many of the families had crossed the U.S. border illegally, while others had sought asylum at border crossings.

“We had hoped that this meeting with the U.S. government would have brought more information on the children affected by the ‘zero tolerance’ plan. However, it was not the case,” said El Salvador’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ludivina Magarin.

The U.S. government said in a court filing Thursday that about 1,400 children of some 2,500 separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border have been reunited with their families.

But government lawyers said 711 other children were not eligible for reunification with their parents by a Thursday deadline that was set by a federal judge. In 431 of these cases, the families could not be reunited because the parents were no longer in the United States.

“We haven’t yet received information on the children separated from their parents, nor on the complications and the delays that have been had,” said Luis Alfonso De Alba, a senior Mexican foreign ministry official.

“We believe that this is fundamental, that this reunification be completed in the shortest amount of time as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile in Guatemala, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch held a press conference at a hotel in the capital to warn people not to try and illegally cross into the United States.

“If you want to enter the United States illegally through ports of entry that are not normal, you can be tried and sent directly to Guatemala,” he said.

Widespread poverty and rising violence have pushed tens of thousands of Central Americans to try and migrate to the United States, with many seeking to claim asylum.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa and Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City; Editing by Michael Perry

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