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Obama discusses influx of refugee children with Central American leaders

President Obama says there is "great compassion" for refugee children in the United States.

By Frances Burns
Obama discusses influx of refugee children with Central American leaders
U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd L) speaks as President Otto Perez Molina (2nd L) of Guatemala, President Juan Orlando Hernandez (R) of Honduras, and President Salvador Sanchez Ceren (L) of El Salvador listen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC on July 25, 2014. The leaders met to discuss the current situation of migrant children traveling alone to the U.S. UPI/Alex Wong/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- President Obama said he told the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that action must be taken to slow the "influx" of refugee children.

During a White House meeting, Obama said he told his counterparts, Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, they should let their citizens know that even if they get to the United States most people who cross the border illegally will not be able to stay. He also called for more efforts to combat traffickers bringing immigrants into the United States.

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"I emphasized that the American people and my administration have great compassion for these children," Obama said after the meeting. "But I also emphasized to my friends that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at risk."

Hernandez, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Thursday that the United States shares responsibility because of "the ambiguity that has been the hallmark of the debate of the reform of the immigration process in this country." He said the "coyotes" exploit those ambiguities to give potential customers a false impression of what awaits them in the United States.

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Obama also urged Congress to take action on legislation aimed at securing the border. Republicans have said they will only support it if it includes a rollback of a 2008 anti-human trafficking measure that makes deporting young immigrants harder.

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