(CNN) — The first group of Central Americans deported under stepped up U.S. efforts to crack down on illegal immigration arrived in Honduras on Monday.
The group of about 40 adults and children left the United States on a chartered flight. They recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and had been held in a new temporary immigration detention facility that opened up in Artesia, New Mexico, late last month, Homeland Security officials said.
“Our border is not open to illegal migration and we will send recent illegal migrants back,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. “We expect additional migrants will be returned to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in the coming days and weeks.”
In the Artesia facility, which can house up to 700 people, officials say undocumented immigrants will be held until their legal cases are decided. The goal, officials said last week, is to process their cases in two to four days. Video conferences with judges have helped speed up the process, officials said.
Before the facility opened up, groups of women with children from Central America were released on parole, dropped off at bus stations throughout the Southwest and told to report to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Offices across the country in about a month.
Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to fortify the border patrol and strengthen other programs for dealing with those crossing into the United States illegally as a surge of Central American women and children arrive on America’s doorstep.
But the Republican-led House is not expected to move fast on it and doesn’t want to give Obama everything he wants. Some say tweaking a 2008 law combating immigrant trafficking might be enough to stem the flow.
The White House has called the situation a “humanitarian crisis.”
Republicans prefer to call it one of the Obama administration’s making, and blame it for not being prepared and for an underwhelming response.
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