07/25/2014 01:43 pm ET Updated Jul 25, 2014

Central American Leaders Blame Immigration Crisis On 'Coyotes'

WASHINGTON -- Three Central American leaders are in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss ideas to slow migration from their countries to the U.S.

The presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will meet with President Barack Obama on Friday to talk about options to stem the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina talked with House Democrats and Republicans in separate meetings earlier this week. On Thursday, the two Central American leaders held a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), where they blamed the humanitarian crisis on "coyotes," or human traffickers, who are deceiving parents.

Molina explained: "They are telling them, 'Let me bring them here, they will be able to stay.' With this, they are making a lot of money, but through deception."

The Guatemalan president has been trying to stem the problem in his country with a campaign that calls on parents not to send their children to the border.

He also talked about legislative efforts being made in Guatemala's Congress to curb smuggling.

"We are promoting a bill to characterize crimes so that we can more forcefully prosecute these smugglers for the crimes they are committing," Molina said.

Hernandez attributed the migration crisis to the growing violence in Honduras. He said the problem, which has been building for about a year now, is rooted in drug trafficking, violence and a lack of opportunity.

But Hernandez also said the coyotes are aware of the heated immigration debate here in the U.S., and they're eager to use the situation to their advantage.

"It is a matter that arises, we believe, from the lack of clarity, not to say the ambiguity, that has become the hallmark of the policies and the debates that are being carried on [regarding] the question of immigration reform here in the United States," Hernandez warned. "That is a situation that the coyotes are very perversely taking very much an opportunity to exploit."

However, the Central American leaders seem optimistic that their trip to the U.S. will be a productive one.

"I am certain, I believe, that this is a crisis that together we can solve," Molina said optimistically. "Once we have solved this crisis, we are going to begin to think about long-term solutions to the root causes of this migration. I am certain that with cooperation we are going to be able to accomplish that."



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