Honduran President: Minors alone and detained in U.S. should return home

Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Wednesday said the country welcomes the return of its children detained while trying to enter the United States.

His comments appeared to clarify statements made earlier by a foreign ministry official who called for a proposal asking the United States to stop deporting Honduran children.

In a statement released on the President's official website, Hernandez said, "The idea is to return these children and youth to Honduras once they've been located, and give them state support to get ahead." His office estimates that 13,000 minors are in the custody of US authorities.

The statement comes one day after Chancellor Mireya Agüero Corrales said she had instructed her country's embassy in Washington to draw up a plan to ask the United States to stop deporting children amid the humanitarian crisis.

Children without parents have been streaming across the Mexico-United States border in unprecedented numbers. Most of them are from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador.

Many have been smuggled north without official papers and hope to find their parents or family members already living in the United States. The ones apprehended by American authorities are often housed in shelters.

Federal law says minors cannot be held at a Border Patrol facility for more than 72 hours. They have to be processed and then either sent to live with a relative in the United States or released to a shelter operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The refugee office operates about 100 permanent shelters for unaccompanied minors, according to spokesman Kenneth Wolfe. The shelters are filled to capacity.

The surge in children crossing the border has forced authorities to open three temporary shelters at military bases -- Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Naval Base Ventura County in California.

U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 and 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year.

Hernandez said he formed an interagency committee led by first lady Ana Garcia to locate the thousands of Honduran children living in temporary American shelters.

The first lady made a call to parents, "asking them to take birth certificates, photos or any other pertinent document to prepare a dossier for each girl, boy and teenager. This will be tremendously helpful to us to get our kids repatriated." She says the overall goal is to reunite children with their parents.

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