By Stephanie Griffith, AFP
WASHINGTON–U.S. authorities are increasing deportations of illegal migrants along the U.S. border, as a top Obama administration official defended the White House’s handling of a flood of undocumented children. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” that officials have reduced the “turnaround times” for migrants illegally entering the country along the Mexican border. “I believe we’re going to stem this tide,” said Johnson, who added that President Barack Obama’s administration is also intensifying efforts to discourage migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied children, from making the dangerous and difficult overland journey to the United States. “There are no free passes once you get here” for those entering the U.S. without authorization, Johnson warned. “Our message to those who come here illegally: our border is not open to illegal migration. There is a deportation proceeding that has commenced against illegal migrants — including children,” the domestic security chief said. The immigration issue has gained new urgency in the United States after 52,000 unaccompanied minors crossed illegally into the U.S. via America’s southern border since October. President Barack Obama is due to travel to Texas later this week, but Johnson would not say whether a visit to the state’s border areas is on his agenda. Meanwhile, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — from which most of the child influx is coming — agreed to launch a multimedia and church-centered campaign against youths migrating illegally to the United States, a Salvadoran foreign ministry spokesman said. And Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his Guatemalan counterpart Otto Perez said they will launch a program on Monday aimed at tightening control over Central American migrants, getting people of all ages moving through Mexico in the federal system.