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White House says deportation flight to Honduras a 'signal'

A woman and her daughter, two of 40 Hondurans deported from the United States, complete paperwork upon landing at the airport of San Pedro Sula, on July 14, 2014
A woman and her daughter, two of 40 Hondurans deported from the United States, complete paperwork upon landing at the airport of San Pedro Sula, on July 14, 2014

The White House said Tuesday that the deportation of 40 women and children to Honduras was a sign that illegal immigrants would not be welcomed with "open arms" amid a border crisis.

The immigrants, sent home from a holding facility in New Mexico on Monday, became a high profile symbol of the Obama administration's efforts to stem a tide of minors crossing into the United States from Central America.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the flight should serve as a clear signal to parents in Central America considering sending their children on the hazardous journey north that their offspring would not be welcomed with "open arms."

Earnest said the move was a "reflection of the effort that this administration has made to increase the resources that are used to deal with this surge that we've seen in recent days."

Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the building crisis that has seen 57,000 unaccompanied minors, some fleeing violence, poverty and persecution at home, cross the southwestern US border since October.

US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America on July 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America on July 8, 2014 in Dallas, Texas

Obama visited Texas last week and publicly warned parents in Central America not to send their children to the United States on a trek often organized by smuggling rings and criminal groups.

He also ignored Republican demands to visit the border himself -- saying he was more interested in finding solutions than photo-ops.

Republicans have, however, balked at Obama's plan -- charging it wrongly prioritizes dealing with illegal immigrants who have already crossed the border rather than deterring new entrants.

Monday's flight was just the first of what US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said would be regular repatriations of illegal immigrants to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, officials said.

All of those returned home were offered due process and the White House says a comprehensive system is in place to assess whether any illegal migrants are eligible for asylum.

The border crisis has exacerbated discord in US politics over -- and was a final blow to -- Obama's hopes of getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill, his final large-scale legislative priority, through Congress this year.

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