Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biden rejects plea to slow C. American deportations

(REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)San Jose, Costa Rica (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Monday told Central American leaders pushing the United States to slow its record pace of deportations to be patient, because it will not change in the short term amid the U.S. economic downturn.

Biden's one-day visit was the first to Central America by a top-level U.S. official since President Obama took office in January, and he promised to work together with leaders to strengthen ties with a region that has felt ignored by Washington.

Central American leaders, who met with Biden at the Presidential Palace in Costa Rica, pushed for a slowing of deportations. A record 80,000 Central Americans were deported from the United States in 2008.

After the meeting, Biden told reporters that leaders must have patience while Washington devises a plan that will address the issue amid the U.S. economic downturn.

"There will not be an immediate response to deportations," said Biden, who arrived here late Sunday and left Monday afternoon after spending three days in Chile.

The deportations and U.S. economic downturn have hit the region hard. During the last quarter of 2008, money sent home by Central American migrants living in the U.S. fell four percent, compared with the same period in the previous year, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

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