The Obama administration is turning to the United Nations to help screen migrants fleeing violence in Central America, senior administration officials said Tuesday, and to help set up processing centers in several Latin American countries in the hopes of stemming a flood of families crossing the southern border illegally.
Designed to head off migrants from three violence-torn countries in the region before they start traveling to the United States, the new refugee resettlement program will be announced by Secretary of State John Kerryon Wednesday in Washington. Under the plan, the United Nations refugee agency will work with the United States to set up processing centers in several nearby countries, where migrants would be temporarily out of danger.
As it does in other places, the United Nations will determine if the migrants could be eligible for refugee status. The administration officials said thousands — perhaps as many as 9,000 — migrants each year from the three countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, could eventually settle in the United States. But some refugees would also be sent to other countries in the hemisphere, officials said.
The new program comes amid a furious reaction by Democratic lawmakers and advocates for immigrants to a series of arrests during the holiday season in which women and children from Central America were rounded up for deportation after they failed to win asylum.
In a stunning rebuke just hours before President Obama was to come to Capitol Hill for his final State of the Union speech, more than 140 Democrats issued a scathing letter accusing the administration of wrongfully deporting women and children who had come here seeking refuge from violence.
The White House, eager to head off a showdown on the day of the president’s speech, sent the White House counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, to a hastily called meeting in the office of the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California.
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