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WASHINGTON - Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan traveled to Guatemala this week to attend the sixth Northern Triangle Security Ministerial meeting with Ministers of Security and other high-level security officials from the region. During his visit, the Acting Secretary signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Guatemalan Ministry of Government to enhance bilateral law enforcement cooperation in an effort to stem the flow of irregular migration. Acting Secretary McAleenan also met with Guatemalan civil society leaders, indigenous leaders, International NGO leadership and small business leaders to gain a deeper understanding of the root causes driving the high rate of migration from the region and targeted solutions to address them.
The signed MOC will expand areas of bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Guatemala to target ‘push’ factors like high levels of crime and limited economic opportunity that spur illegal and irregular migration from the Northern Triangle Region. Included in the agreement is a provision on law enforcement training to improve criminal investigations that disrupt human trafficking and drug smuggling networks often run by transnational criminal organizations, who are able to profit from human suffering. The agreement has already resulted in nine arrests of a major drug smuggling organization, showing promise for the effectiveness of the resource and information-sharing agreement.
“I am proud to sign this agreement with Minister Enrique Antonio Degenhart,” said Acting Secretary McAleenan. “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 our border.”
On Wednesday, McAleenan met with farmers and community leaders from Huehuetenango, a department that has seen three percent of its population immigrate to the United States in the first seven months of this fiscal year. He toured an agricultural training facility where rural farmers are taught how to increase productivity to augment their incomes while improving food security and nutrition for their families. McAleenan stressed the importance of public-private partnership in addressing the economic challenges in the Western highlands that are contributing to irregular migration.
Acting Secretary McAleenan also met with private sector business leaders and with representatives from Walmart’s corporate social responsibility program in Guatemala “Giving a Hand to Grow” initiative. In both meetings, McAleenan discussed the importance of strengthening the capacity of small and medium-sized businesses to spur economic growth. McAleenan reiterated DHS’s commitment to working with the Government of Guatemala and the private sector to increase economic opportunity. Also noted was that the U.S. has a particular interest in issues related to inequality and violence against women, and is committed to working with Guatemalan public and institutions to improve security, as well as livelihood opportunities for women.
On Thursday, Acting Secretary McAleenan spent the morning with First Lady of Guatemala, Patricia Marroquín, touring a migrant Repatriation and Reception Center and observing the safe processing of returning Guatemalan migrants.
“I commend the First Lady for her leadership and efforts to support the safe and successful reintegration of returned migrants as well as messaging campaigns to dissuade illegal migration to the United States,” McAleenan emphasized.
McAleenan’s trip to Guatemala comes as the migrant crisis at the United States’ Southwest Border intensifies and worsens. April saw over 109,000 migrants apprehended, the highest amount in one month in over a decade. McAleenan’s meetings in Guatemala reflect the Department-wide, “whole-of-government” approach DHS is taking to confront the ongoing border crisis so that the Department is able to fulfill its humanitarian and security mission.