Mexico’s Pena Nieto Vows to Help Stop Child Migrant Trafficking

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference about immigration reform. (Source: Bloomberg)

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to help put an end to a surge in child migration from Central America to the U.S., attributing the jump to organized crime gangs that smuggle people across the border.

“We’re discouraging this migration of children,” Pena Nieto said in an interview with Charlie Rose taped June 27 and scheduled to air on PBS last night. “I think most of the times, they’re being victims. This is a consequence of the abuse of criminal gangs that are devoted to trafficking with children, or to take migrants to the United States.”

U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday asked Congress for emergency funds and legal authority to stem the rising flow of children into the U.S. and said legislation may be needed to increase penalties for people smuggling them.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year through June 15, about double the number in a similar period in fiscal 2013, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Most of the children are smuggled through Central America and Mexico, according to the White House.

Obama will seek more than $2 billion in funding after lawmakers return next week from recess, according to an executive branch official. That represents an increase of $400 million from plans the administration announced last month. The White House request comes as a broad rewrite of immigration laws is stalled in Congress. Obama also said yesterday that he’ll resort to executive action on U.S. immigration rules because House Republicans won’t hold a vote on legislation to revamp the system.

‘Injustice’

Pena Nieto said that while the economic changes his administration has passed should create more opportunities in Mexico, the U.S. should pursue immigration changes and it would be an “injustice” not to recognize immigrants’ contributions to the U.S. economy. He didn’t specify which steps the U.S. should take in overhauling its immigration laws.

Pena Nieto, 47, said security has been a top priority for the Mexican government since he took office in December 2012, and that the number of homicides recorded so far this year is down 25 percent from the same period two years ago. His government has arrested drug kingpins including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who gained fame after escaping a high-security prison and building up the Sinaloa cartel, known for decapitating enemies or hanging their bodies in public places.

“There are more drug cartel leaders detained and less homicides in Mexico,” Pena Nieto said.

Benefits from Mexico’s legal changes in areas including telecommunications and energy will materialize in the “mid-term and short-term,” Pena Nieto said in the interview.

“The implementation of the reforms takes time; the benefits of the reforms also take time,” he said. “Gradually, we’re going to start feeling the benefits of these reforms.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Brendan Case in Mexico City at bcase4@bloomberg.net; Eric Martin in Mexico City at emartin21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Carlos Manuel Rodriguez at carlosmr@bloomberg.net Robert Jameson

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