MEXICO CITY —
Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan officials expressed concern and sadness on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans to phase out a program that shields hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants from deportation.
Mexico's deputy foreign minister, Carlos Sada, said the Trump's decision created "anxiety, anguish and fear." The change could affect some 625,000 Mexican nationals, a majority of the nearly 800,000 young men and women who were brought into the United States illegally as children and are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 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 urged a quick solution to the uncertainty that DACA recipients 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, former President Barack Obama's five-year-old administrative program, came during the final day of talks in the Mexican capital to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, adding pressure to already tense conversations between Mexico and the United States.
El Salvador's foreign relations minister, Hugo Martinez, said on Tuesday that he would meet with members of the U.S. Congress in Washington to push for 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, that opens a bridge for the beneficiaries of DACA," Martinez said.
Guatemala's foreign relations ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that its U.S. consulates would assist the thousands of Guatemalans protected under DACA, adding that that the ministry is counting on the "humanitarian sense" of U.S. lawmakers to ensure migrant youth are not forced to leave the country where many grew up.
The director of a Honduras migrant aid center, the Center for Attention for Honduran Migrants, called the U.S. 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 center's director.