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Deportations to Central America to continue, Homeland Security chief says

| Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, 9:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that deportations of Central Americans would continue despite recognition by the Obama administration that a humanitarian crisis had enveloped El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The administration does not plan to stop some 15 to 18 flights a week back to Central America, where homicide rates are now some of the highest in the world.

The United States does not have open borders, Johnson said. Those apprehended trying to enter the country illegally and who have been ordered removed by immigration courts after exhausting their appeals will be sent home.

“There is a right way and a wrong way,” Johnson said. “As long as we have border security and as long as our borders are not open borders, we have to be consistent with our priorities.”

Johnson spoke on a host of issues that also included terrorism, cyber security and family detention during a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor.

The strong message reflects the United States' challenge in carrying out its responsibilities to stop illegal migration while confronting the crisis in Central America, where, it acknowledges, many migrants cannot return home safely.

The White House reached an agreement with Costa Rica last week to host up to 200 Central American refugee applicants while the United States assessed their asylum claims. It was part of a large package of measures intended to protect migrants that included expanding the number of people who could apply to the U.S. refugee program for children.

Advocates such as Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, praised the expansion as acknowledgment by the Obama administration that Central American migrants are fleeing a humanitarian crisis and not an economic one.

But implementation of the program is a years-long process.

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