tv Conference on the Americas - Kevin Mc Aleenan CSPAN May 15, 2019 5:37am-6:01am EDT
fields in coalition with the united states is not about commercial trade. it is about something more sophisticated. >> for north america? with that mr. secretary, i want to thank you for flying from mexico to be with us today and for your comments on so many issues that are important in the relationship between the united states and mexico, but most importantly, your vision of development and your vision for north america. thank you very much. [applause]
>> i'm going to work on -- that's a good goal. thank you, i know you had a very engaged set of discussions today. i also know we're at the end of the day. i'm really excited to be here and talk about critical issues and offer the u.s. department of homeland security perspective on building regional prosperity and security. a critical role i see for our international partnership, especially with mexico and the northern countries in central america. i would like to start with providing some context into what are stark challenges that facing. the migration flows are challenging from chile to canada.
they represent both a security and humanitarian crisis as i have said many times. in march we had over 1 irregular arrivals. crossing the border in and thats of human smugglers. we're going to see similar demands in april. we now see over 65% from guatemala, honduras and el salvador. more concern arrange the number of vulnerable people. nearly 70% of those apprehended along the southern boarder in march were families. 57,000 and unaccompanied children. well over 9,000, often arriveing with a variety of medical conditions that
require urgent care. to put that in perspective 40,000 entered the u.s. immigration process in march. the numbers that are most significant from guatemala and honduras, they have exceeded arrivals from mexico. the first time that ever happened on the u.s. border. to be clear, guatemala and honduras have seen 1% of their population migrate to the u.s. one department in guatemala has seen almost 35,000 of its resident departments, close to 3% of the population mige migrate to the u.s. these trends are deepening and accelerating. a study conducted by vanderbilt university one in four guatemalans have an intention to migrate with 85% of them expressing the united states as their preferred destination. that is over 4 million people.
imagine if the entire population over the western united states just left. what kind of impact would that have on the economy, culture and identity and what does it mean for future generations? the loss from energy and youth could be devastating. the large scale departure at the same time as fertility rates are dropping and the population begins to age over the next several decades could depress income levels and growth and development. some serious issues and gers us. technology and social networks enable close contract among families and empower smugglers to sell their services. they are advertising express routes for the united states. from e seen a fapt rise those traveling from buses to the u.s.-mexico border making the journey in as little as
five to seven days being left in the most remote parts of the u.s. border, the boot heel of new mexico, groups ranging to 400 in size. what hasn't change reasonable doubt the extreme risks of the migration cycle and the fact that the people who benefit from it most are criminal organizations. many come to the dangerous and dehumanizing system of stash houses. criminal who are not interested in their safety or humanity. thes of their journey result in 1,500 deaths a year in mexico and the u.s. border. last week a raft capsized, several were rescues but four died including a 10-month-old and a 5-year-old child. yesterday they found a mother and an infant wandering the desert.
they were just a few hours away from succumbing to the almosts. migrants are paying them thousands of dollars to be treated this way. smugglers charge between $5,000 to $7,000 per person for the journey. the impact of these friends are severe and worsening. for the security of our borders from honduras to canada for lawful trade and travel, for our communities suffering from illicit drugs and criminals profiting from the most vulnerable. most fund memoryly and i want to emphasize this point, this crisis is about children, their safety and the future of our region. the status quo should not be acceptable for anyone who cares about the region and its people and it will take a concerted effort to change it. i think that starts with understanding the key drives. there are a number of reasons for the fundamental shifts in migration patterns. the factors are predicated on
a stark gap. continued high levels of violence in a number of areas in central america. job creation has not been able to keep up with labor growth resulting in a huge opportunity shortage of only 1/5 of the needed jobs jobs being created every year for the number of young people entering the workforce. poverty and food insecurity are key contributors. 64% of hondurans live below the poverty line. 63% site lack of food as a reason for migration. guatemala has the highst malnutrition rates in the hemisphere and fourth highest in the world. criminal organizations have used the central american corridor for a range ever of illicit activities. as a result, while the security situation is improving in all three countries, the region has
experienced elevated homicide rates, general crime created by drug trafficers, gangs and other criminal groups. these factors drive many to make the dangerous trek north. the strength to have u.s. economy with historically low levels of unemployment in the esence of hondurans, guatemalans, serve as magnets. the main cause is the weakness of the u.s. immigration system. the vulnerabilities in our legal framework which allow families and unaccompanied children to stay in the u.s. for months or years even though the vast majority of them will not receive legal status. that's a good list of challenges. in our view, it requires
multipronged solutions. working together with leaders here in washington but also leaders throughout the region to be successful. our strategy has four come opponents. first, we are seeking a legislative change necessary to strengthen the u.s. immigration laws and eliminate the magnet for our most vulnerable migrants and we're strengthening the u.s. border to prevent unlawful entry and secure and facilitate trade and travel. third, partnering with mexico to prevent those from preying on mige rapts and reduce migration through mexico and fourth, most importantly for this audience to, deepen and strengthen regional peps to address -- partnerships to reduce the causesor migration. from the department of homeland security perspective, e will continue our efforts.
on the first one in march, former secretary of nielsen signed a first of its kind agreement. this agreement will help focus each country's efforts targeting cartels and gangs who profited off migration. the strong framework for how we can work closer with governments by emproving border controls and protecting vulnerable imgrants and also helping receive and reintegrate their citizens. we will remain committed to implementing it. four distinct and important areas of focus. combating trafficking and smuggling, expanding our information and intelligence sharing and extended border security in the region msm more broadly, i believe that creating economic opportunity is at the heart of what will reverse this crisis. support livelihoods throughout
the hemisphere and reinforce our shared values. we will work to prevent uncontrolled migration. there are significant areas where we will improve the economic situation in central america as well. we want to work with the customs to increase efficiency cross-border trade, a aiding in job creation automation. broad support for the region's customs teams to modernize their practices in all of these areas. central america can't take advantage if it takes longer for good to make it from el salvador to georgia. we can change that. d.h.s. intends to support the department of state highlighting the program where is accountable partnerships have made an impact addressing
the root cause of immigration. the president made clear we need to operate from a shared understanding. i'm committed to helping that move forward. free enterprise and entrepreneurship have been an engine for success for the world lifting families out of poverty. the united states will continue to support governments across central america to improve economic opportunity for all with marked solutions. this i believe is the single best way to address poverty and hunger. while the challenges we face is massive and systemic, we have opportunities to work together for solutions to this ongoing to cry sis, many have broad support in washington and around the region. as neighbors and friends we want central america to thrive. to do that, we will need to see more from our partners and renew our shared commitment to deliver a true and concerted effort. thank you for your time this afternoon. i look forward to talking with
you. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, recognizing the lateness of the hour, let me jump right into a couple of questions. i know we're between you and happy hour. we want to move through this but nonetheless first of all, mr. acting secretary, thank you not just for comments but for your service. i speak as a former government employee, the jobs and issues that you're dealing with are not easy. they are politically sensitive and to have people willing to spend your career addressing these on on behalf of the american people is public service. i wanted to thank you for that leadership that you're showing. you know the last time we spoke in december, we talked a lot about root causes. again, you were in a different position. things have changed in terms of your own profile but many of the migration challenges continues. you mentioned one in four
guatemalans are intending mige rapts. that is astounding. you mentioned food. awe sound thing to think people are not getting enough to eat in a region of plenty. i wonder if you can tell us briefly from the perspective of acting secretary, you have the sources of the department at your disposal, what changed in terms of your own approach, i want to follow up with how can you and we as a private sector work together to address some of these issues. it is the private sector that creates the jobs in central america. how can we help support that effort? you're talking to a private sector audience. feel free to give the advertise jment you have been looking to give. >> thank you so much. appreciate your question. secretary nielsen, my predecessor was committed to partnering in this region.
you'll see a sustained commitment at the acting secretary level in that regard. but one of the things that might be unique that i can try to bring as the current commissioner of u.s. customs and border protection is that knowledge and ability and commitment to working with the private sector and understanding government has a role in terms of automation and reducing barriers to trade and generate economic activity to help foster and support job creation. i'm going to bring that focus to my dialogue to really see if we can help change the flow of trade within central america and between the u.s. and central america. we have a very effective free trade agreement. we should be using it to foster exports in central america. we have a tremendous export market if you look at it from a u.s. business perspective of 30 million central americans
who are predisposed to american brands. we should be engaging them effectively. i think homeland security with that customs role with the ability to build capacity has a role to play to foster economic growth with the private sector. i worked to bring companies together to give ideas together and amplify them in my new role. >> we appreciate that message. that is so critical and to figure out what is really going on on the ground, it is helpful to talk to the people who are dealing with those regulation and customs issues and corruption issues, etc.. i just wanted to give you the opportunity to make that message and so thank you for doing so. let me shift the gaze very briefly to my second topic, the linkage between security and development. in interprets of department of homeland security, you a
broader mandate. central americans troubled by job creation and drug trafficking, crimes in venezuela. there are some other issues. what is the linkage between crime and criminal activity and economic growth and development. are the two linked in some way? how do you view these issues in your role? >> i think they are very much linked. this is i think a message that has been pretty clear from this administration. a press conference in may of 2015, secretary of state tillerson talking about the u.s. responsibility with our drug demand in creating violence and murder, murder rates in mexico by enriching and empowering criminal organizations. i absolutely think there is a link. for central america for years, the route of cocaine from the
andes to the u.s. stops. we made some progress working with the government of guatemala and the ministry of defense but we need to prevent that from impacting the already challenging situation to develop economically and to provide security and governance to rural areas of all three countries. hat has to be a commitment and they are definitely directly related. >> and then the final question, if you will indulge me. just before you spoke, we were honored to have words from the foreign minister of mexico exosme obviously mexico is and should be a very important player in some of these issues. president trump and haven't pence and others have spoken about cooperation with mexico. this is an area of collaboration. you're committed to that. what form does that take? we can talk about -- at forums
like this about cooperation. what does it actually mean in the context of the department of homeland security, when the rubber hits the road, what are we talking about with cooperation with central america? >> from my customs and border perspective, globally, ha crimpenda and i think we have been able to establish an approach to moving cargo by inspecting it together called the unified cargo processing program. it could take three stops with multiple government agencies and two nations down to one stop and reducing the time for trade to cross borders and the security of that trade, enhancing that and i think that is the kind of thing, the u.s. and mexico and my new colleagues i met with the secretary, we can bring as partners to support that
customs and supply chain barrier effort to central america. that is one kind of specific area. i think these transnational criminal organizations are just that. they are transnational. they are starting now and advertising in guatemala and rural areas of honduras and bringing folks through mexico. we need to attack that together and share intelligence information and disrupt those routes to protect people and to disrupt the criminal organizations. i think that is a natural area of collaboration. i would echo your points on the secretary's commitment and his cabinet to development in southern mexico auld all the way into central america. that is a shared commitment with the united states. it is something i spoken about with my colleagues. as we talk about solutions in the long-term, the cabinet table will be something i
emphasize as a key area. >> i would love to continue the conversation longer. we're beyond time for what has been a very full day and -- but we ended it where we dwan began and that was a conversation on central america. we started with the president elect of el salvador for our lunchon. this is an area where countries of good will can show partnerships together and address some of the difficult issues in the hemisphere together. a great message to send us off on. i hope you will come to the council of the americas. we want to be partners. ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in thanking . ce again kevin
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