tv Customs and Border Protection Commissioner on Central American Security... CSPAN December 10, 2018 9:18am-10:12am EST
a man who needs the presidency for his own self-esteem. and therefore, i pray that he runs for reelection. i believe that he can be reelected, if the next two years are anything like the last two years, and i will be proud to stand with the president through thick and thin. thank you and god bless you. [applause]. [inaudible conversations] >> and this morning here on c-span2 we want today bring you a preview of next year for congress and the white house. we had some technical problems with that video. we are going to try to bring it to you later in our schedule and also post it on-line at
c-span.org. and next commissioner on border security and migration hosted by
the america society and council of the americas last week. >> [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversation [inaudible conversations] good morning, ladies and gentlemen, if you could find your respective seats and get comfortable for what promises to be a fascinating conversation this morning and custom and border protection issues. good morning, welcome to the council of the americas. we're going to be exploring migration issues specifically about central america and we have with us from the custom
and border who generously gave us time for a conversation. we're looking forward to this discussion, mr. commissioner. >>
good to be here. >> this is something we have been looking forward to for a long time. for those who may not know us, i am i head the council of americas, and it's a business and policy organization, we promote open democracies and rule of law through the hemisphere. with news on daily basis and abiding peace in the region we're delighted to have the opportunity. and welcome all of you on television and webcasts, we're delighted you're tuning in. we understand you're tuning in from washington and elsewhere and want to welcome all of you in this room and encourage you to tweet your impressions about this conversation, hash tag we're using ca migration and handle to the extent that you
care to use that,@ascoa. there may be no more sensitive political issues in the current environment than migration. mr. commissioner, you know that very, very well. everyone here is very familiar with the reports and recent activities on the border with mexico and the caravans of central american migrants travelling from the region to the united states or toward the united states. as migration flows from mexico itself have steadily declined, the northern triangle countriecountries have picked up. and we're here to figure out what is causing them to increase the urge to migrate. what policies and restrategic positioning might be considered. washington long recognized as you know on a bipartisan basis the need to address the root
causes in coordination with mexico, the alliance for prosperity and security was intended to do just that and leaders from the u.s., mexico and northern triangle countries have come together over the past years in washington and miami to build on these efforts. with a new government in place in mexico which views joint efforts in central america a priority, it's time to incorporate best practices from recent experiences and focus more clearly on reform to promote job creation and work force development and security and anti-corruption. in order to explore these issues, we're joined by kevin mclennan, and after watch a panel will explore in greater depth. we'll have note cards we'll pass around and put your notes on them and we've pass them forward. the commissioner leads the largest law enforcement agency.
i didn't know that actually, before we set this up, and he's also the second largest revenue collecting source for the federal government. i guess the first is the irs. >> that would be-- >> very good. he oversees some 60,000 employees, a manages a budget over $13 billion. and his department and agency facilitates some 4 trillion in trade and travel over 365 million people over u.s. ports of entry. this is a real mandate. this is a real portfolio. this is the real deal. so, but it's important to recognize the reach of u.s. cbt. having visited the northern triangle in september it's guarded by personal knowledge and real time understanding. ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure to welcome him here to begin our program.
welcome to the council of americans, u.s. border protection, commissioner mclennan. [applause] >> mr. commissioner, there's a lot going on on migration issues as we've just noted. a lot of issues going on in terms of the border. to help get us started help us frame these issues. how should we be viewing what's a complicated issue and how do you view this and help us frame this conversation. >> thank you so much for the invitation and opportunity to be here with you today, eric. you have a very distinguished panel following and i'd love to hear their thoughts as well. there are few issues more importantly to us operationally although i appreciate you articulating the full scope, we have a lot to do with trade and terrorism, fundamentally border security and addressing migration flows. so what we're seeing today, i've called in multiple for a--
both a border security and a humanitarian crisis and people ask, what's different? why are you saying that? the numbers are not as high as say in the early 2000? we released our data yesterday, released our border encounters, apprehensions for people crossing at ports of entry and many are lawfulfully claiming asylum and arriving without documents. the second month in a row about 60,000 total. 85% coming unlawfully between ports of entry, the other 15% presenting at a port of entry and that's a significant inclease r crease -- increase and going up month over month and a significant drop after the election of president trump. within that flow there's a demographic change, i don't know it's been widely
recognized. it really, through 2012, 2013 time frame we saw about 90 plus percent of the crossings. we're single adults, primarily male. additionally they were primarily arriving from our large neighbor, mexico of approximately 120 million of the that's completely changed. in november, 59% of the arrivals were families or children. so from over 90% of adults to 59% in november, families and children. we're now in our fifth out of the sixth years with more of the arrivals being from the northern triangles. and that's a fundamental shift in what we're seeing and the reason i call it both a border security and humanitarian crisis, is given that change of demographic, we still do face significant numbers of single adults, criminals, smugglers,
increased narcotics coming through ports of entry, at the same time trying to adjust and respond to a flow of economic migrants between ports of entry, many that people with legitimate asylum claims, families and children that are pressuring the system. and just think about that border patrol agent. encounters 30 to 50 family members coming across. he's got to call for backup, respond, take care of them, make sure they get across the river safely and at the same time we know that there are criminals and smugglers bringing drugs across in the same sector using that family group as a diversion. they've charged them five to $7,000 per person to make the journey from central america to our border, 500 just to get across the river. that last step is a huge profit center for violent criminal groups right on the border. so, this is not a victimless crime to across the border illegally.
it puts people at risk, our agents at risk. allows smugglers to bring narcotics and other items across and for the violent criminals. we've got these people on the hand of violent criminals and on the promise of being able to stay in the u.s. and only a percentage for asylum once the proceedings are concluded. there's a mismatch in the frame work. in the push back in central america and aid we need to talk about today. i think there are solutions. i think there are opportunities partnering with the central american government as well as the incoming administration in mexico to address all of this. but it's a different challenge than we face historically and it's both a border security and humanitarian. >> and 59%, almost two-thirds of the migrants are women and
children, families from central america. what explains that shift? do you have a sense of-- you were just in central america and you saw it on the ground with your own eyes and team. give us a sense why is that occurring? >> there are a number of dynamics in terms of why we see push factors from central america and i do have to pull with the pull factors though. the reason that the population has changed so much from single adults to families and children is the awareness of and recognition, advertised by smugglers, who start this the an a retail level almost like a travel agency in communities in central america, if you bring a child with you, you will be released. if you cross the border illegally and allowed to stay in the united states. and so, that, the phenomenon we're seeing is a direct response to our gaps in legal frame work that don't allow for the completion of the
proceedings, and first of all our system, and pull factors -- our broken system are inviting and incentivizing groups to come. >> if i can break in, is that a congressional issue or-- >> absolutely, it's statutory. there are three elements. we're unable to keep a family together in custody through an immigration proceedings, they have to be released within 20 days. there's a huge gap in the asylum process threw the initial assessment if they have a fear to return home to the country. and passing on that initial assessment. at the end of the process with an immigration judge we're only seeing 10 to 20% having a valid asylum claim. so there's a three to five year period in the u.s., many don't file an asylum claim when they're supposed to within a year of arrival. so there's a huge mismatch and then of course, for children, for a child from mexico, comes across illegally, they're
returned to mexico, through the health and human services department, but for countries further away under the statute, they're not allowed to be repatriated that way. so those are the statutory issues that kind of create the pull factors. on the push factors, what's happening in central america that's different? a lot of people think first and foremost about violence, murder rates and gang violence and obvious there are significant concerns there with ms-13, with 18th street and other, you know, multi-transnational, very violent criminal organizations. but what we looked at over the last several years is really a changing demographic coming from central america, not arriving from the big city, but primarily now we're seeing from guatemala and honduras, folks in rural areas. in guatemala talking the western holidays and up into the catten areas of guatemala and there's challenges with
food insecurity. and the international food program and migration, have written astute studies about drought, about the coffee price decline and how that's affecting the ability of families to provide for themselves. it's the highest rate of malnutrition in the western hemisphere and see that directly who is arriving. and the vast majority from the western holidays. we're seeing the rural areas of honduras come into play here on the border with guatemala where they're in the dry corridor and drought and challenges with food insecurity. really, the hunger concerns has become a prevalent pushback from our analysis and perspective and in engaging with international bodies and with our partner government. economic opportunity is really
either one or two in terms of the push factor. at guatemala, the average age is 19. the number of jobs that are created each year, about 35 to 40,000. when you have about 150,000 young people entering the work force. that's a huge mismatch. so, to look for opportunity, there are jobs in mexico, there are jobs in the united states. you can see why people would want to move toward that economic opportunity. so these are really the two factors that we see most prevident. the violence that remains an important issue. i'm really impressed with the progress, the plan for el salvador. they reduced and in hondurans 50%. and guatemala has never seen the high murder rate that the neighbors have seen down 33% since 2013. those are good signs in terms of the violence. that does not mean that certain
communities and neighborhoods are not impacted dramatically and that's a factor for some people leaving central america, but we see it as an economic opportunity and poverty issue, food insecurity issue and then continued issues with violence and security. we need to-- >> what you're describing is an unbelievably complicated menu serving as push factors and maybe similar for people in the geographic area, but rural to country, that begs the question in terms of the united states, mexico working together with central american countries, you know, what can would he do about it? i began my career at the state department working central american issues almost 30 years ago. and it was a different time, it was a different place. there were military conflicts, et cetera, but when the peace accords were signed in
guatemala, there was a huge sigh of relief and hopefulness and now the region has a chance to move forward. the united states in my view proply pushed forward the central america free trade agreement. cafta, given the opportunity for job growth, trade expansion. but if you look at central america or particularly the northern triangle countries are today, it almost seems that the progress has not been nearly as much as we certainly hoped for, but even sort of expected. how should we be addressing these issues? it's probably not a fair question, but you're a law enforcement guy. but having said that, deeply involved, and have a sense of what's worked in the past and what we need to do going forward. do we need to redirect our assistance program or find different partners? do we need to do more of the same. help us think this true because this is an important question, particularly in washington as people are looking at budgets and forward appropriations and things like that.
>> no question. and true, we don't run aid programs directly, but it's a strong participant with our partner agencies and governments. and given the breadth of what we do, we have an impact on the law enforcement and security side and customs side and trade promotion and of course in the policy making process in d.c. i want to make sure that my advice to secretary nielsen as we're engaging on congress is the actual push factors that we're facing so we can acquire foreign aid in a most effective way. i would say that you know this, your former colleagues at the department of state, dedicated u.s. foreign service officers from state that are working in this region are making an impact. i got to see it in seven different municipalities, 50 different meetings in the three northern try angle countries and the programs in the western
holidays, helping with the cycle to ensure there's adequate protein intake and the crops yield can be increased to help indigenous farmers from the rural areas to the integrated effort in the plan of el salvador and communities are investing in law enforcement, arts and culture, vocational training and education in an integrated way. it takes committed local leaders and it takes american support and funding and kind of knitting together and helping to integrate the efforts to make a difference. so from my perspective, i think it starts with identifying the real push factors and not trying to put a broad brush or blanket an i approach across the region. you have to have the insight and nimbleness in guatemala as you do in san pedro sula and communities with gang violence you've got to address both. then again, i think there are
things that bradley-- broadly apply through the region and to build the administration and customs administration and help enhance cross-border movements, something we'll be great partners and invest in. in honduras they've had custom reform for years, about to move forward towards a new customs administration. they've got great professional leadership and tremendous ideas. a seven-page list of partnership items we'll work on to support them. the customs, now, administration impacts in guatemala has a strategic plan that i think is impressive. we can help from a policy side, i.t. side, trade partnership side and also this philosophy to risk management. you know, we see significant delays at borders within central america.
eight to 12 hours, 8 to 24 hours, excuse me for exports, could be three days or more for imports, that dramatically impacts the cost for product. dramatically impacts their productivity. so if you see a textile industry in el salvador that under the central american free trade agreement is making products that are very competitive in the u.s., we want that to be able to move smoothly across the border into honduras, the port of cortez and onto a vessel to get to the american market quickly and we want to help them develop that. >> i think it's a critical point and something we've pointed to a lot is the competitiveness or noncompetitiveness of central america from an economic perspective, right. >> sure. >> and small economies to begin with and if the borders are obstacles to trade and making countries less competitive, that's a good place to start in the context much trying to build economies that work better, created the jobs that people need. now, there's a statistic, i don't know how accurate at this point, but if you put a product
on a truck from panama and take it to the u.s. border, the amount it takes is longer, apparently i've never tried this, but i'm told it's longer than the same product than a ship from china to port at long beach and that matters in the business, you know, to business people, but i think the point you're making is very, very relevant and timely. sticking on central america for a minute-- >> it's our partners in the region and not just the government and other partners. the private sector wants to move more efficiently. >> absolutely. you've used the word partnership a lot. one. things we've found in development activities, business activities, security activity, not just in latin america, but around the world. you really have to have local partners committed to the cause who can work together who frankly are not corrupt who have share a vision. without going into diplomatic details or anything like that, are you confident that the leadership in the northern triangle countries are the type
of partners that we need to be able to have success on the program that you've just laid out? >> so, yes, i saw a lot of tremendous leadership, a lot of people committed to their cities, their regions and i think of entrepreneurs we met with and their dynamism and energy go the future for that region and building small businesses, i think of the mayor in el salvador what he's been able to bring together across the community from a law enforcement and vocational training and really, he's got an orchestra, a youth orchestra that he's helped foster with u.s. support. i think of the leadership of ports of cortez and honduras, which is modernizing and creating efficiencies in the movement of containers throughout that region which is a critical textile manufacturing in the makila region. so i see a lot of private sector government partners and you know, frankly, our security
partners in guatemala, honduras and el salvador are billed effectiveness, and borders, preventing narcotics from getting through and their airports. yeah, i think we have the partners to work with and to build from a foundation that's now grown. >> job creation is a critical incentive for people to remain in their local communities. i mean, study after study shows that given the choice, between staying and going, most people would prefer to stay in local community, their local faith community, it's family based and jobs, et cetera. if there are no jobs, no secure environments, et cetera. all the things you have been talking about, mr. commissioner and again, i understand your law enforcement mandate, but how does that relate to the job creation needs of central america and frankly, mexican region and other parts of latin
america that we're talking about? >> yeah, i think that it's one broad brush you can paint across all countries, it's about jobs. it's about opportunity and creation and we saw some very effective strategies, cooperatives, for instance, that are reaching out to small business owners and providing them a way to bring their products to market and the coffee industry, for instance. but really, it ties to that governance piece and the customs piece intrinsically. so while not as directly relevant as cvp role, supporting u.s. efforts and central america with partners on those issues is good policy going forward and i really believe that customs professionalism, modernism and integration is going to make an impact on the job creation in the region as well. >> we are going to have a chance to go to those of you with your questions shortly, but as i mentioned, we're going to do this by index card.
if you could jot your question down on the question providing, we'll collect those and bring them up for the commissioner's consideration. as we're doing that, let me continue the conversation with a slightly different lens. as i mentioned in the context of my setup conversation, these are very complicated issues, politically sensitive and they affect families and individuals on all sides of the border. >> right. you've laid that out clearly and effectively if i can say. you know, what would you wish washington would take away from this conversation or from the whole discussion about central america, migration, the issues that we're facing? let me ask it a different way. >> okay. >> and maybe it's an impossible question, but it's something that i've grappled with a lot.
>> right. >> in order to make progress, times you have to depoliticize issues and address the root causes and issues on the ground. how can we work together on these issues in a bipartisan way, depoliticize some of these issues, and really return the focus in some way to where it could do some real goodbye creating conditions on the ground to encourage people to stay in their home countries? >> for me i think it starts with grappling with the facts of what's really happening. we have a vulnerable population, again, that is being incentivized to come to the united states in a very dangerous manner, in the hands of criminals, and we need to grapple with that. we need to deal with the aspects of our system that are making that attractive and making that an option, even if people won't eventually have immigration permission to stay in the u.s. i think that's first and foremost is statutory reform. we need to partner with mexico. we need to attack the
transnational criminal organizations that are praying on these individuals and that continue to profit dramatically from drug demand in the united states. there's no question that our law enforcement partnership, our partnership on migration policy, regionally, is going to be essential and really, that is a key priority to working with the incoming-- with the now inaugurated president obrador administration to address. and push back with focused and targeting aid, accountability with our partners on the government side and to keep reinvesting in what's working. i think we've got to hit all of those angles. at the border we need investments in security. that's part of the dynamic. long side, families and children, we have an increase in hashed narcotics, a fentanyl challenge across our nation,
methamphetamine is more of an issue at western united states at record levels. these are extremely dangerous drugs. the fentanyl overdose problem is absolutely epidemic and coming through the ports on the southern border and we have to address that and protect our communities. so you have a real conversation about what's happening and a dynamic multi-facetted strategy to address it which i think has four elements. >> it's a real balance, isn't it? trying to keep the bad things out, the fentanyl, drugs, et cetera, is nonetheless encouraging the good things, the trade and frankly, the united states is a country of immigrants and it's been a basis of our own success globally. so we want to encourage people to come to the united states in the right way, et cetera. >> right. >> so the balance, i think, is just key, and as the commissioner you're grappling with these issues every day. >> every day. >> absolutely.
>> there's two billion in trade across the southwest border every day. the life blood not only of the border states economy, but over 40 states that do over 40 billion with mexico. the largest part of our economy is travel exports, facilitating lawful travel through the airports and record level over 130 million travelers and reduced wait times four out of the last five years even against that 5% growth through the use of advanced technology and hiring. we're working hard and trusted programs as we've got global entries here. we're working hard to achieve that balance, right? to understand who might present a risk and to really facilitate the vast majority of travel and trade, which is lawful and economically essential. >> so we have a number of questions from those of you, several of them are grouped into similar categories so let
me put them in some way together. but the first one really tees off what you were talking about mr. commissioner. you've talked about the change of demographics, about the shift of the types of family units that we're seeing at the border. has the paradigm shifted at all in terms of the enforcement side? or is it-- are you still using the same paradigm as when most of the migrants were single young males looking for work? or other activities? >> so, i think on the front end, the paradigm will remain the same. we need to have a wea awareneso is crossing the border and apprehend. and many are not presenting themselves to a border agent when they cross the border. and to correspondent and pertain no matter what. what's different our border patrol stations were built to
have single adults, almost exclusively male, many of many who were criminals, right? and now where you have those facilities encountering 60% families and children. and that's going to have an adjust, the statutory structures and that's a fundamental change we have to see. the other aspect winning r i think woo we should highlight there's a legitimate process for asylum seekers and how do we give access to asylum seekers. right now it's overwhelmed by a huge number of people that don't have legitimate asylum claims. how do we balance that and allows us to focus on the people that are actually worthy of protections that have meritorious asylum claims? that's another challenge that our system is not structured for.
instead, we have huge arrivals that are turned over to ice and ultimately released into the u.s. for a court hearing. >> it sounds like it's more of adjudication, a legal issue, or-- >> true, but we would be able to increase our processing capacity for lawful asylum seekers if we weren't focused on apprehending the largely economic migrants who believe they will be allowed to stay. >> shifting back to central america, there were a number of questions related to my question to you about local partners and the ability to work together effectively and again, this is not a story that's just developed over the last several months or even the last couple of years. this has been going on for a couple of decades or more. the question is, really, one of corruption. corruption is in the news much in terms of central america, the whole issue in guatemala,
and honduras, complicated issues not to necessarily get into issues of corruption in central america, but from your perspective ins a complicating factor isn't it? from a law enforcement perspective sharing intelligence and trying to find out where the illegal actors are operating, where they're getting their funding and does that concern you in a meaningful way? >> it does, of course, and largely the province as the state department the diplomatic and structural aspects of that. for us, we have adopted alongside other law enforcement partners, techniques to address that. we worked with small vetted units. we work on training and building out a core from a vetted unit to build that cadre that has the professionalism and training to act effectively in an environment where culturally there has been corruption source. that's critical for customs administration as well at the border. so, for us, it's about training
and partnering and building out that professional trusted core that can help change the culture. >> do you have plans to follow up your recent visit to central america? if so, what would be-- >> if my partners will let me come back and really, we had a great set of meetings, i would love to go back to the northern triangle in the first quarter of next year to really build on some of the law enforcement partnerships. we've got some agreements that we've made that we want to make operationally real, you know, in terms of technology, implementation and additional training, for instance, some operational partnerships, would like to take the next steps on our customs to customs relationship with all three countries, and so, that's a critical priority. and then, you know, working with partners at us aid and others to ensure that we are a highlighting and listing off the targeted aid that can make a difference in areas where migration pressures are so
acute. >> we've talked a lot about the northern triangle countries which again we've defineded as guatemala, and el salvador and honduras, and there are issues happening in nicaragua and migratory issues out of nicaragua and mexico has a new president. what are your hopes with mexico's cooperation and coordination with the new government in mexico with obrador and the president himself stated, clearly stated his desire to work with the united states to address some of these issues in central america, and also in mexico, and to work directly with you and with the trump administration. this seems to be a real area where we can cooperate, no? >> yeah, i agree 100%. and we've met with the cabinet
and subcabinet officials and they are a tremendously capable. we've had such an era of increased partnership and effectiveness in our partnership in the border, across the entire inner agency with mexico. and we work with the customs side and immigration, and we work with the agriculture side, obviously, some in terms of law enforcement in counter narcotics efforts. so we've got really broad relationships. we'd like to sustain and deepen the relationships in the new information. i think our unified cargo processing is really an example for the region. right now in nine ports of entry on the southern border we're actually working with mexican customs and mexican agriculture to do one single inspection on trucks headed northbound. instead of stopping three times in nugales, arizona, and we have three hours, entire
process of 45 minutes to have economic benefits, partnership benefits and getting better security and working together and sharing information. that's the kind of thing that we want to deepen and extend. the a the broader regional level, i think in his first week, president lopez obrador making that statement, investment in certain central america is going to be part of his administration and increasing economic opportunity. i think that's a great start in an area where interests are entirely aligned. so if we can continue to build off that area, deepen our partnership on the targeting transnational criminal organizations i think we'll be off to a tremendous start with with the new administration. >> i agree 100%. and this is an integrated economical economically region. and mexico is part of the
solution, it has to be between central america and the united states. that to me says the cooperation there is fundamental to success, and the way that you're describing this is also encouraging because we see a lot of reports of difficulties between the united states and mexico, et cetera, but given what you're saying the partnerships, the relationships, the connectivity. >> right. >> in the law enforcement side and on the, even the political side is broad and deep, and it's ongoing. >> yes. >> and can be anticipated to go forward even under the new administration in mexico. that's a very encouraging statement. >> so, my third transition with-- from the u.s. side with the government of mexico and this is as sooth as it's gone. the connections have been created with the incoming leadership sooner in the process. the long transition in mexico, five months and we've had the opportunity to meet them, to talk about joint priorities, and to really start off on a very good foot. so, yes, i'm very optimistic and, i mean, we're neighbors.
it's essential to make this work. mexico is evolving in terms of its understanding of the regional migration flows and its position. it's not just a sending country. it's more prominently now, a transit country in terms of migration, and central america, the primary sending region is a shared goal and priority. >> the question, i know i mentioned nicaragua and i'll come back to that. since we're on the u.s.-mexico border. there' a question about the u.s. canada border. the issues are different. >> quite different. >>, but different in many ways. i wonder if you could spend a minute. you're the border protection guy, not just the southern border, but the northern border. i wonder if you could spend a moment telling us about priorities for our northern border and how it might be the same or different from what we face on the southern border?
>> we have one priority that's the same in terms of our land border, ports of entry and infrastructure. they're critically underresourced over time and we're making progress in the last several years and really we need a lot of investment in ports of entry to facilitate that huge volume of trade and travel and very optimistic about implementation of the u.s., mexico and canada agreement on trade as a successor to nafta and we want to keep those flows moving and some important enhancements from a customs perspective there and we need the infrastructure to do that. i think our portion with canada continues to be strong. canada border services agencies is one of the leading border agencies globally and they share our approach to kind of a unified border agency in terms of inspection at the ports of entry and we're just trying to continue to build on that and
enhance it, looking at unified cargo processes like we are with mexico and that's another similarity on both borders. but, obviously, the security threats are very different. you know, canada is legalizing marijuana. marijuana is no longer the cross-border kosh cash crop it used to be. no longer for tco's in mexico and not the same as if it was realized ten or 15 years ago in canada. and that said, travelers have information at us border. that's something we're working on to make sure that that transition to the national legalization in canada goes smoothly and travelers, you know, understand what they're going to face at the border. >> canada is the number one trade partner of the united states, and the number one supplier of petroleum too the united states. >> right. ...
whether the border gets sick and trade and commerce is reduced. >> we are committed to keeping it then and defending it further. we now have a joint approach to our trade partnership program with cpp and canada's trade partnership. that's the kind of thing we need to continue to expand and deepen and make more streamlined. >> we don't have a lot of time left but let me come back to the central american region. thank you for taking the departure north to canada. people were probably not anticipating that. talking about the northern triangle but not in the vacuum. there are other countries and not just in central america but broadened into the caribbean and
there's venezuelan humanitarian migration crisis that is really come to the united states yet but it is affecting our partners and allies in columbia, et cetera. how can we make sure some of these other issues don't amplify the issues that we're already facing in terms of the united states? their complicated enough. are there things that you all are projecting forward that come into the midterms that you are perhaps concerned about from the region, let's call it the latin america and caribbean region? if so how should we look at that? how are you gaming that out in terms of being able to address it in advance? >> against a lot of this will be in my partners bailiwick at state and elsewhere but a couple points i think irrelevant. going back to question earlier about what's different about central america, why is the migration so strong from the
northern triangle. i would add three points i forgot to mention. proximity, but also the diaspora, very strong diaspora from all three northern triangle countries in u.s. which provides a connection, provides funds for people do want to come to the u.s. and also a lake up to the cultural affinity can really close with our neighbors. you can see that if you're traveling to honduras, salvador, for instance. different from nicaragua and from venezuela perspective. we are watching nicaragua, increasing of migration. primarily to costa rica so far which is interesting and costa rica is a good partner doing very well. we don't want their capacity to be over, in terms of the flows from nicaragua. and then of course watching the venezuela situation very closely. very small diaspora in the u.s. we don't see the same funding
flowing south so we don't have a really strong increase in venezuelan migration coming to our southwest border. we have seen asylum-seekers that were here lawfully in pieces and other categories after state in the us in numbers. this is a regional crisis for colombia, peru and brazil. my concern, one of my concerns is the ability of our partners to manage that migration crisis for the resources and to work on the counter-narcotics issues. we seen a dramatic increase in cocaine production in the andes starting in colombia after the peace deal and extend debt into peru and ecuador. we still need to work on attacking that. not only for the use bound cocaine but the increasing transport to europe and the oceanic, australian and new zealand. that's the concern as well we don't want to lose sight of but i know that the state give on
this week with colombian government in particular i how to move forward with the venezuelan part. >> it's incredible the importance, put that in call, but the importance of the drug trade in creating problems in some other different ways. it's not the heart of everything but he talked about it several times and these are included issues that central america, mexico. that's a whole separate conversation but fascinating to hear your thoughts on that and very much appreciate speed is if i could drop a quick analogy. there a pretty seminal press conference of may 2017, was then secretary kelly and then secretary tillerson with the mexican counterparts, and both secretaries on used side technology u.s. drug demand, what was creating incredible challenges of violence in mexico. publicly taking ownership of that issue, i think that expands
to central america on the cocaine flows. but also i would add one layer and say that our legal framework for immigration also creates a draw, also creates profits that are affecting the whole region as well. we have to confront that as we make public policy. >> it's an important point. one of the things i pointed to in the past is there's been an effective public relations campaign in terms of the diamond trade and whole quote-unquote blood diamonds and how people participating in illegal trade are creating chaos in countries where diamonds are mind, if they're not done legally and ethically and all that. i can't figure out why we can't do the same with the drug trade. now i'm on my soapbox but the point is look, blood drugs, these are creating chaos in central america, in colombia, venezuela which is actively facilitating the drug trade.
it's remarkable that we've not yet been able to get our arms around in the united states as a consuming country what that is doing to our partner countries in the region. that's not to say we haven't tried, but this is the reality you're describing. >> you can ask the citizens about the costs of the drug cartels fighting over every inch of access to the rio grande and what that is doing to their daily life, murder rate in the border states has gone up significantly in south texas. you're right, i'd be happy to support your public messaging campaign on that issue. >> our time has almost run out so let me take the opportunity to ask one final question and it really comes back to restart the whole linkage between economic development and law enforcement and your mandate, your mission and the daily activities you're carrying out. return to what we always do in
washington, try to forget where the money is going, right? are the u.s. taxpayers funding the right approach in the northern triangle countries? are we spending the money in the right way or spending enough? are we giving it to the wrong direction? should we we think it will would ask more of our local partners in terms of local contributions? this is u.s. taxpayer money. we spent billions and central america over the last 20, 30 years, not even talk about the 1980s and all that. give us how you're looking at this, and maybe some ideas for how things could make some even more progress, greater progress in the future. >> sure. we are for years in two supporting device for prosperity with investment in central america, over $2 billion set aside by congress. a lot of that is in the process of being deployed. it takes a while for understand
on the usaid side, once the money is allocated to deployed programmatically in the region. we're starting to see the fruits of that. i saw it first hand when i was in central america and in september and hope to see more progress when i go back. if you talk to our colleagues at use the id they are very mindful of ensuring these investments are targeted and making an impact for u.s. policy, for reducing migration flows. for increasing jobs. we need to be held accountable by congress and certainly the president and hold us accountable our foreign aid efforts in general as well to make sure it's making that impact in the region. i do think the goal here is to not act away from that though but to ensure it is targeted and having the effect that we are seeking. from our perspective we bring a kind of expertise, a kind of capability and have relationships with our partners
in the region that we can build from, on the law enforcement side, on the customs cited hope to contribute to the bigger picture. >> unfortunately, we do have more time for this session, , ts part of our session. mr. commissioner, you have been open, , transparent, available o some tough questions. and i just really want to thank you for making soap available, coming out and talking to us, visiting with us. these are critically important issues, long-term, and the work you and your folks are doing is meaningful, and so we just really again thank you for coming. one final item of business before we ask the panel to come join us for the second part of this program is to join me in thanking the commissioner for being here and for his comments morning. [applause] >> thanks very much. >> please remain seated.
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