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By Ricardo Brito
BRASILIA (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said during the first stop of a Latin American tour on Tuesday that if Central Americans thinking of immigrating to the United States "can't come legally, don't come at all."
Earlier, a White House aide told reporters that Pence will meet with the presidents of Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of Honduras on Thursday in Guatemala to discuss the immigration issue on the U.S. southern border.
Pence will be joined in the immigration talks by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
The meeting will take place a week after President Donald Trump's abrupt order to end his policy of breaking up families who crossed the U.S. border illegally, which had prompted a global outcry.
Trump's executive order did not explain how his aggressive immigration policies could be adjusted to keep families intact, house them and assess their legal status, adding chaos to the immigration debate in Congress.
"To the people of Central America, I have a message for you," Pence said in Brasilia. "Don't risk your lives or the lives of your children by trying to come to the United States on a road run by drug smugglers and human traffickers. If you can't come legally, don't come at all."
Pence met on Tuesday with Brazilian President Michel Temer. In joint press statements the two said they spoke extensively about the situation in Venezuela, where ongoing political and economic crises have prompted millions of Venezuelans to flee their homeland in recent years.
Pence and Temer also discussed how to strengthen trade and business ties between the two largest economies in the Americas.
On Wednesday, Pence is expected to visit the Brazilian city of Manaus in the Amazon rainforest, where he is scheduled to meet migrants from Venezuela, before travelling to Ecuador.
(This version of the story corrects the second paragraph to reflect meeting with the vice president of El Salvador, not the vice president of Honduras)
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas)