Honduras' first lady has warned her own citizens not to try entering the United States via the Mexico border without the necessary documents, simultaneously vowing to solve the problems causing the national exodus.
"Stay in the country and let's look for solutions to support you," said Ana Garcia Carias, wife of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Carias made the statement after her first visit to an immigration detention center in McAllen, Texas, since President Donald Trump implemented his zero-tolerance immigration policy two months ago.
Carias, who heads a Honduran government immigration task force, has visited other migrant shelters in the United States and Mexico in the past.
Honduras, plagued by extreme inequality and poverty, is among the top five countries sending undocumented migrants to the United States. Sixty percent of the population lives in poverty and its GDP ranks among the world's 30 lowest, according to a 2018 Focus Economics report.
The country also suffers 'legalized corruption,' according to anti-corruption council Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH).
President Hernandez, also known as JOH, is himself being investigated in connection with several high-profile government embezzlement cases. He's also been accused of fraudulently winning last year's presidential elections, which observers say were wracked with irregularities.
Carias confirmed that children are no longer being separated from their parents while visiting the Ursula Processing Center located in Mcallen, Texas. For about six weeks, the Trump administration's 'zero-tolerance' policy meant arresting any adults who entered the country without documents. Thousands came with their children, which led to the forced separation of approximately 2,300 families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump later issued a decree to stop family separations and his administration said they are trying to reunite children with their parents, but around 2,000 are still in limbo.
After being processed, families are sent to detention centers across Texas within three days, or are released with electronic ankle monitors, reported the first lady.
She told reporters during her Monday visit that she discussed information-sharing between the United States and Honduras consulates regarding services for unaccompanied children entering the United States, but gave no details.
Last year, nearly a quarter of the 40,810 unaccompanied minors processed by the Department of Health and Human Services were from Honduras.
Carias said she talked with Honduran children and families at the McAllen facility to understand why they leave their homeland. The majority said they are trying to flee the violence and extortion fees that gangs force them to pay.
Others said they wanted to be reunited with relatives and escape poverty. Approximately 400,000 of the undocumented living in the United States are from Honduras.
Carias said Hernandez is committed to fighting such circumstances and urged families to stay in the country for their children's safety: "More jobs, more education, better infrastructure and the safety of all is a priority for the government."