MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) - Mexico and Central American countries said they will lobby US lawmakers to protect young illegal immigrants who saw their lives thrown into limbo on Tuesday (Sept 5) after US President Donald Trump said he would end a program that shields them from deportation.
Trump announced plans to halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has protected from deportation nearly 800,000 young men and women who entered the United States illegally as children.
"Congress now has 6 months to legalise DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!" the president said in a tweet.
Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Sada said Trump's decision created "anxiety, anguish and fear" for the roughly 625,000 Mexican nationals protected under the program.
"They are exceptional. ... This is as emotional for the United States as for Mexico," Sada said at a news conference immediately following the announcement to end the program.
He said his government would press US lawmakers for a quick solution to the uncertainty that "Dreamers," as they are commonly called, now face in their adopted home.
Immigrants who opt to return to Mexico will be welcomed with "open arms," Sada said, offering them assistance with work, finances and education.
The announcement to end DACA, created by former President Barack Obama in a 2012 executive order, came during the final day of talks in the Mexican capital to modernise the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), adding pressure to already tense conversations between Mexico and the United States.
El Salvador's Foreign Relations Minister Hugo Martinez said he would meet with US Congress members to find a solution within the next six months, before DACA's provisions are set to end, aiming to protect the 30,000 to 60,000 Salvadorans who could be affected.
"It's a worrisome situation. ... We will be lobbying to have legislation as soon as possible that opens a way out," Martinez said.
Guatemala's foreign relations ministry said in a statement that it is counting on the "humanitarian sensibilities" of US lawmakers to ensure thousands of Guatemalans are not forced to leave the country where many grew up.
Honduras said in a statement that it would push US Congress to reconsider Trump's move, and offer consular support for more than 18,500 Hondurans protected by DACA.
The director of a Honduras migrant aid centre, the Centre for Attention for Honduran Migrants, called the US decision "very sad," and said young Hondurans forced to return home could face violence from gangs and drug traffickers.
"Their lives will be much more difficult and put at enormous risk," said Valdette Willeman, the centre's director.