The White House says the statement is true despite the estimated 52,000 unattended children who have crossed the southwest border so far this year and the roughly 90,000 expected by fall.
Still, Latino advocacy groups have complained about the record number of deportations of illegal immigrants under Obama's watch, with the National Council of La Raza labeling him the "deporter in chief" earlier this year as they pushed him to dial it back.
Others say Obama is falsely boosting his deportation numbers.
David Stoddard, a founding member of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers who served as a border patrol agent for 27 years, argues that the Obama administration is using formal deportation proceedings for all illegal immigrants apprehended while previous presidents would catch immigrants trying to cross the border illegally and allow them to return to Mexico without a hearing from a deportation judge, what is known as a “voluntary return.”
“For decades, illegal aliens detected at the border — Mexicans in particular — were apprehended and allowed a voluntary return to Mexico,” he said. “Obama is fudging the numbers on his record number of deportations. it's nonsense.”
BORDERS WITH CHILDREN
Misperceptions about U.S. immigration policy behind surge of illegal children, report says
The 10-page July 7 report was issued by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), which according to the Justice Department website is led by the DEA and incorporates Homeland Security. Its focus is on the collection and distribution of tactical intelligence, information which can immediately be acted on by law enforcement.
Diaz-Balart, who along with other lawmakers just visited Central America, described how human smugglers -- known as coyotes - are exploiting perceived changes to U.S. immigration law after the Obama administration decided in 2012 to practice prosecutorial discretion in cases where individuals were brought into the U.S. illegally as minors.
"The violence isn't new. The situation in those countries is not new," Diaz-Balart said. "These cartels have seen a weakness in the system. They've seen statements coming from the administration that they have used in order to just frankly increase the number of people coming over.
“Remember this is not a five-year-old or an 11-year-old can't just walk over the border
and get to the United States. These are organized coyotes doing this.”
The intelligence assessment, which is unclassified but not meant to go beyond law enforcement, also cited data from the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime Statistics saying despite an explosion in the number of illegal minors, crime data for Central America actually showed a dip in violence.
"There's no doubt the message went out- go across border now the United States won't do anything about it," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas. "That came primarily from the coyotes who were transporting these kids. These coyotes - it really was something we weren't prepared for - they sort of advertised themselves, actually advertise, as social workers- we're gonna help you take your kids out of the poverty and the danger they have in these countries and put them in the United States, where they'll receive an education and be taken care of. And that was the message."
A draft chart obtained separately by Fox News, and circulating on Capitol Hill, showed data from Homeland Security projects that if current trends continue, as many as 90,000 illegal children will enter the U.S. by the end of this year and nearly double that,160,000, next year.
"We need a combination of things, want to swiftly and humanely return them to their home, said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “Only until we do that will we stop the flow. So we need a message of deterrence."
While customs and border protection officials issued no statement about the intelligence report, Homeland Security officials stressed that a combination of factors, including a bad economy and security concerns, were behind the surge. Earlier this month, a media campaign was launched by the U.S. government in Central America to combat misperceptions about American laws.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.