The number of children turning up at the Southwest border is dropping


A border patrol police officer frisks a bus passenger at a checkpoint in Honduras. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)

MEXICO CITY — The number of Central American children turning up at the U.S. border is dropping, but the U.S. government’s deportation plan is just kicking into gear.

Each week, the United States flies 10 airplane loads of adult males back to Honduras — the country at the center of the current immigration crisis. Soon, the Obama administration plans to add two flights per week for deported women and children, said Julie de Torres, the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras. And about two months from now, she said, the plan is to begin flights just for children.

With this looming increase in deportations, the Honduran government is scrambling to find ways to care and house those coming back. Currently, the flights land in San Pedro Sula, a northern city, because of the dangerous airport in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The director of the nonprofit organization that takes care of deportees when they arrive recently told The Post that “we're not prepared here to receive children. This center wasn’t built for that.”

The Honduran government is building a new shelter and looking at routing deportation flights to different airports. This week, the Honduran government presented a list of needs to donor countries, and helping deportees in this period of “immediate reception” was a top priority.

Getting to the United States has become harder for migrants all along the route. Near the border in Honduras, a special police unit trained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been searching buses for children. Mexican authorities have stopped some of the trains that migrants ride. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he'd be sending 1,000 National Guard troops to fortify his state's border.

The numbers of migrants has fallen off sharply. In July, 5,508 unaccompanied children were picked up, down from 10,628 in June, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The number of adults with children has followed the same trend: 7,410 in July, down from 16,330 in June.

The Honduran government’s using a PR blitz to persuade people that they shouldn't leave, that the route is dangerous and that women and children won't be allowed to stay in the U.S. even if they make it. Soon, public schools across the country will be holding a “day of reflection” to discuss the dangers of migrating, said Torres, the American diplomat.

The U.S. Agency for International Development recently finalized an $8 million grant to the International Organization for Migration to help returning Hondurans, part of a broader support effort to the country, said Mark Feierstein, USAID’s deputy administrator, who is in Honduras this week.

The deeper reasons that people leave Honduras, violence and a lack of jobs, are not going away anytime soon.

“We don’t underestimate the depth of the challenges,” Feierstein said.

Joshua Partlow is The Post’s bureau chief in Mexico. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and as a correspondent in Brazil and Iraq.
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