U.S. trying to return unaccompanied child immigrants faster, official says
Hoping to address the rising tide of unaccompanied children crossing the Mexican border into the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday he's working on ways to return those children to their home countries faster.
Johnson has been talking with the ambassadors of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico to discuss "faster repatriation," he said.
The comments came as he updated reporters on a multi-agency effort, ordered earlier this year by President Obama, to address the crisis.
Holding centers in Texas can no longer accommodate large numbers of children, forcing the federal government to open additional facilities.
Chris Cabrera, a labor leader for Border Patrol agents, told CNN that he expects 60,000 unaccompanied children will cross the border this year -- a sharp increase from previous years.
U.S. law prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from immediately deporting the children if they are not from Canada or Mexico.
Instead, the children are turned over to Department Health and Human Services supervision "within 72 hours of DHS taking them into custody," an official said.
Relatives living in the United States are searched for and contacted and the immigrant is given a court date. But very few actually show up -- and most join the large numbers of undocumented immigrants.
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