U.S. and Guatemalan officials signed an agreement that aims to stem the flow of illegal migrants leaving the Central American country en masse.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on Tuesday alongside his counterparts in the Guatemalan government. The MOC calls on Guatemala to better enforce its borders, reducing the number U.S.-bound immigrants who leave the country illegally. In return, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has agreed to more cooperation with Guatemala regarding drug and human trafficking issues.
“I am proud to sign this agreement with Minister Enrique Antonio Degenhart,” McAleenan stated Tuesday. “Through our continued collaboration and partnership, the U.S. and Guatemala are formalizing a number of initiatives to improve the lives and security of our respective citizens by combating human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods, helping to limit ‘push’ factors that encourage dangerous irregular migration to the U.S., perpetuating the ongoing crisis at or border.”
The agreement will target the operation of transnational criminal organizations — much of their involvement in human and drug smuggling contributes to illegal immigration.
The MOC signing kicked off McAleenan’s four-day trip in the Northern Triangle, where he will meet with leaders in the region to find solutions to the immigration crisis. The acting secretary is expected to finish his trip by Thursday.
The Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — has been the epicenter of the U.S. border emergency.
McAleenan revealed earlier in May that over 1% of the population of Honduras and Guatemala has left for the U.S. since September 2018. Many of the people remaining in these impoverished countries still wish to leave. A survey in Guatemala found nearly 40% of respondents saying they wanted to emigrate, with a vast majority of those choosing the U.S. as their destination of choice.
Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are reaching the U.S.-Mexico border every month. April marked the second consecutive month where migrant encounters with Border Patrol topped 100,000 — and the latest month to show migrant apprehensions have continually risen since January.
A large bulk of the migrants are family units and unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle, wreaking havoc on a U.S. system designed to handle only adult Mexican nationals. DHS leaders have begged Congress for more money to fund border operations, and for changes to immigration laws that would better reflect the demographics of the current immigrants.
“Family units have reached a record level: 59% so far this month of our total crossings on the border,” McAleenan told lawmakers earlier in May about the crisis. “That is a direct response to the vulnerability in our legal framework.”
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