In it, but not of it. TPM DC

White House: New Child Migrants Won't Get Legal Status

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AP Photo / Valeria Fernández

"Those who cross borders today illegally, including children, are not eligible for an earned path to citizenship," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said last Thursday.

On Sunday the White House clarified that they also won't be eligible for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, established in 2012, which allowed undocumented youth who came to the U.S. illegally as children to gain temporary legal status that lets them live and work in the country.

"These migrant children are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, what's called the DACA process, or pending immigration legislation," a senior administration official said. "We ask families and communities to think twice before sending their children on this very dangerous journey."

The White House is deploying Vice President Joe Biden to Central America this week partly to make this clear and correct "misperceptions" of U.S. immigration policy, which Republicans on both sides of the debate pinpoint as a reason for the recent influx of unaccompanied minors to the country.

"The Vice President will be making this trip to Guatemala to discuss both the violence and economic opportunity side, and the misperceptions of the U.S. immigration policy," the senior administration official said.

DACA applies to individuals who have arrived before June 15, 2007. The path to citizenship in the Senate-passed immigration bill (which is going nowhere in the House) is restricted to people who came to the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican proponent of immigration reform, said he doesn't think the children who have arrived in the U.S. recently should be allowed to stay.

Most of the undocumented children are believed to be coming from Central America. American officials estimate that some 60,000 to 80,000 children will seek haven in the U.S. this year. Some are getting legal assistance to help determine whether they have other options, such as applying for asylum.

"It's a growing humanitarian crisis," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told reporters last week, blaming the influx on "the magnet of the president's policy."