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By Lesley Clark, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Facing a tide of unaccompanied children pouring into the U.S., the Obama administration will send Vice President Joe Biden to Central America this week to make it clear that the children are not eligible for a path to citizenship and could be deported.

Biden will go to Guatemala on Friday at the end of a trip to South America, and will meet with government leaders from that country, El Salvador and Honduras, the administration said.

A senior White House official attributed the flood of children to violence and a lack of economic opportunity in the region. But the official also acknowledged a “misperception of U.S. immigration policy” and said Biden will emphasize that illegal immigration is unsafe and that newly arriving children are not eligible to earn U.S. citizenship.

“The bottom line is that it’s not worth subjecting children to a perilous journey when at the end of the day there is no light at the end of the tunnel,” the administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity as a matter of policy.

Critics have suggested that President Barack Obama’s directive in 2012 to allow some undocumented immigrant children to defer deportation is lure to immigrants. The directive applies only to children brought to the U.S. as minors before June 2007, but critics charge that it has encouraged illegal immigration.

Obama has described the situation as an “urgent humanitarian effort,’ but the administration official said Biden would make it clear that while the children are fed and cared for, “unaccompanied immigrant minors are still going through removal proceedings, just like anyone that crosses the border without proper documentation.”

Most of the children appearing on the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and Biden will meet Friday with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, along with El Salvado’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and a senior representative of the Honduran government.

A White House official called the Biden visit part of the administration’s “determination to find a resolution,” noting that it’s been talking with government officials in the three countries for the past few months.

The administration has estimated that 60,000 of the children could cross the border this year. Over 24,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in 2013.

The crisis has exceeded the capacity and resources of patrol stations in Texas, and some Central American immigrants have been flown to Phoenix, Ariz., for temporary lodging.

The official called the surge of unaccompanied children of “great concern,” noting that some have become the victim of violent crime and sexual abuse. Some of the latest surge of children have been under 12 and many are girls, the official said.

Biden will also discuss U.S. economic and security support for the countries, the official said, adding that the U.S. is looking at ways to help address the violence and poverty that it says are the root causes of the influx of children.

“You can anticipate that the vice president will talk about ways that the United States can enhance its support to these countries,” the official said.

Biden may also make a public address on the immigration issue, the official said.

The stop in Guatemala was added to the end of a weeklong trip Biden is making to the region and comes days after Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake wrote to President Barack Obama, asking him to “send a clear message to those seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”

The administration official said the White House has had “extensive consultations” with Congress on the issue and that Biden had spoken with a number of senators about it.

Obama this month ordered federal departments to coordinate relief for the children, including housing, medical care and transportation to reunite them with family members.

Biden begins the trip with a stop in Brazil on Monday, where he will watch the U.S. play Ghana in the World Cup. He will also meet with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who last year canceled a White House state dinner after revelations of National Security Agency spying.

Biden also will travel to Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The trip to Central America and the Caribbean is Biden’s second to the region this year, part of what the White House said is a “stepped up pace of engagement” in the region.

President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?