tv Conference on the Americas - Kevin Mc Aleenan CSPAN May 8, 2019 2:12am-2:38am EDT
north america. thank you very much. [applause] announcer: the annual conference on the americas concluded with remarks by acting homeland security secretary, who talked about the flow of migrants from central america and other immigration priorities for the trump administration. [applause] >> i am going to work on that. that is a good goal. thank you everybody. i know you have had a very engaged set of discussions today. i am very excited to be here and
talk about critical issues and offer the u.s. department of homeland security's perspective on building security in the americas. a critical role i see for international partnerships especially with mexico. i would like to start with providing some context into what really are instead of challenges we are facing. migration flows we are seeing across the region are unprecedented and they are challenging governments and social services from chile to canada. while we recognize the severity of the discussion -- the situation in venezuela, i will focus on the increasing challenges we are seeing in northern central america, mexico, and at our u.s. border. ,ith current migration flows especially of vulnerable families and children through mexico to remote areas along the u.s. border, representing both a
humanitarian and security crisis. in march we have had over 100,000 irregular arrivals. 90% across the border unlawfully in the hands of human smugglers. we are going to see similar numbers this april. historically, the vast number of crossings were single adults from mexico. of guatemala and el salvador. even more concerning are the number of vulnerable people. nearly 70% of those apprehended were families. 57,000. unaccompanied children well over 9000, often with a variety of medical conditions that require urgent care. to put that in perspective, 40 thousand children entered the u.s. immigration process in a single month in march. the numbers that are most significant for guatemalan and exceeded arrivals from mexico, the first time ever
on the u.s. border. eachmala and honduras have seen 1% of their population migrate to the u.s. in the first seven months of this fiscal year. one department of guatemala has seen 35,000 of its residents close to 3% of the population migrate to the u.s. in that timeframe. are deepening and accelerating. according to a recent usaid study funded by vanderbilt university, one in or guatemalans have an intention to percentageth a high stating the united states as their destination. imagine if the entire population of the western united states just left. what kind of impact would that have on the economy, culture, and identity? what would it mean for future generations? the loss of youth from whole areas of central america could be devastating for its future.
the large-scale departure of future generations at the same time as the population begins to age could depress income levels and negatively impact long-term economic growth and development. serious issues and questions for us. how migrants are getting here has also changed. technology and social networks enable close contact among families, but have also enabled smugglers to sell their services. they are advertising new express routes to the united states. we have seen a rise in large groups of mostly families from guatemala traveling on buses through mexico to the u.s. border in a much shorter smuggling cycle, making the journey in as little as five to seven days and often being left in the most remote parts of the u.s. border. the west desert in tahoe, arizona, and in groups ranging from 100 to 400 in size. what has not changed are the extreme risks of the migration cycle.
benefit from it most are criminal organizations. many still come through the dangerous system of stash houses controlled by criminals who are not interested in safety or humanity. the dangers of the journey and the callousness of smugglers results in 1500 deaths a year in mexico and at the border. carrying tworaft families capsized and while border patrol agents were able to make several rescues, four died, including a 10-month-old and five-year-old child. a mother agents found and infant wandering in the desert dehydrated. they had been invaded -- abandoned by smugglers. migrants are paying thousands of dollars to be treated this way while others are still being used to carry illicit drugs. smugglers charge between 5000 to 7000 per person for the journey and $2.5 billion business for some of the worst people in the
hemisphere. the impact of these trends are severe and they are worsening. borders,ecurity of our for our communities suffering from illicit drugs and for violent criminals who are profiting from the most honorable. most fundamentally, and i want to emphasize this, 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. it will take a concerted effort to change it. that starts with understanding key drivers. there are a number of reasons for the shift in migration patterns. the factors for migration are predicated on economic opportunity gap, exacerbated by -- with continued high levels of violence in central america. job creation has not been able to keep up with labor growth, resulting in a huge opportunity shortage.
only 1/5 of the needed jobs being created every year for people in the work force. poverty and food insecurity are key contributors. 64% of hondurans live below the poverty line. 63% of central american migrants cite lack of food as a motive date or -- as a motive for migration. in terms of violence, over the past decade, transnational criminal organizations have used essential american corridor for a range of illicit activities including trafficking a significant amount of cocaine inbound the united states. our situation is improving in all three countries. the region has experienced elevated homicide rates and elevated crime committed by drug traffickers and other criminal groups. combined, these factors have created factors that drive many trekke the dangerous north.
the strength of the u.s. economy with historically low levels of unemployment and the presence of significant diaspora of guatemalans with resources across the united states serve as magnets. the main cause of the current increases as a weakness in the u.s. immigration service. vulnerabilities in our legal framework allow families and unaccompanied children to stay for months or years even though the vast majority of them will not receive legal status at the end of their proceedings. that is a good list of challenges. how can we address them together? in my view, multifaceted problems require multipronged solutions. we have developed a strategy that requires working with leaders in washington, but also throughout the region, to be successful. our strategy has four components. we are seeking a legislative change necessary to strengthen immigration laws and eliminate
the -- for most vulnerable migrants. we are strengthening the border with air years and personnel to prevent unlawful entry and secure and facilitate legitimate trade and travel. mexico totnering with prevent criminal organizations from preying on market -- on migrants and to reduce unlawful migration through mexico. fourth, to deepen and strengthen regional partnerships to address the root causes of migration from security to economic growth and governance. from a department of homeland security perspective, we will continue efforts to support border security and legitimate trade and travel. in march, former secretary nielsen signed the first of its kind agreement with guatemala and honduras. this will help focus each country's efforts targeting cartels and gangs who have profited off of migration by expanding our operational
collaborations. canframework for how we work with governments to ensure immigration is well-managed and legal by improving border controls, stopping smuggling, and protecting vulnerable immigrants, also helping receive and reintegrate citizens. we remain committed to implementing it. combating human trafficking and smuggling, countering gangs, expanding our information and intelligence sharing, and strengthening air, land, and maritime border security. more broadly, creating economic opportunity is at the heart of what will reverse this crisis. supports economic ties livelihoods throughout the hemisphere and reinforce shared values. while the united states will be a steadfast partner for law enforcement and border security, dhs will work to prevent uncontrolled migration. there are critical areas where we can improve the economic situation as well. we want to work with all three
countries customs administrations to increase the efficiency of cross-border trade by reducing supply chain barriers, supporting exports, and job creation. from an infrastructure, technology, automation, and legal perspective, customs and border protection is securing support for the region's customs teams in all these areas. central america cannot take captain if it takes longer. we can change that. to support the department of state in targeting those aid programs where partnerships have made an impact at addressing the root causes of migration. the president has made clear we need to operate from a shared understanding and invest only in efforts that produce results. enterprise and entrepreneurship have been the engine of success for millions around the world. the united states will continue
to support governments across central america to improve economic opportunities for all market solutions. this is the single best way to address poverty and hunger. while the challenges we face are massive and systemic, we have opportunities to work together on a solution to this crisis. many of them have broad support in washington and around the region. we want central america to thrive. we will help governments increase security and prosperity. to do that we will need to see more from our partners and we will need to renew our shared commitment to deliver a concerted effort. thank you for your time this afternoon. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, recognizing the lateness of the hour, let me jump into a couple questions.
i know we are between you and happy hour. we want to move through this. first of all, thank you not just for your comments, but for your service. i speak as a former government employee. the issues you are dealing with are not easy. to spendeople willing your career addressing these on behalf of the american people is public service. i wanted to thank you for that leadership you are showing. , welast time we spoke talked a lot about root causes. things have terms of your own profile. many of the migration challenges continue. fourentioned one in guatemalans are an intended migrant. you have also mentioned food security. astounding to think people are not getting enough to eat in a region of plenty. i wonder if you could tell us briefly from the perspective now
of acting secretary, you have the resources of the department at your disposal. what has changed in terms of your own approach some of these issues? i want to ask a follow-up question in terms of how can you and how can we at the private sector work together to address these issues? tooften we talk governments governments. thatan we help support effort? you are talking to a private sector audience. feel free to give the advertisement you have been looking to give. >> i appreciate your question. secretary nielsen was very committed to partnering in this region. the first thing i will say is you will see a sustained commitment of the acting secretary level in that regard. one of the things that might be unique i can try to bring the former -- as the current commissioner of u.s. customs and border protection's knowledge and ability, commitment to working with the private sector,
and understanding government has , role in terms of automation in terms of reducing barriers to trade, to generate economic activity, to foster and support job creation. i am going to bring that focus to my dialogue as i am engaging at the minister level in central america to see if we can help the flow of trade within central america between the u.s. and central america. very successful free-trade agreement. we should be using it to foster exports. we have a tremendous export market. central americans are predisposed to american brands. we should be engaging them. that -- security, what does have a role to play in fostering economic growth. privateorked to bring
sector companies are investing in the region to come together to give ideas to government on how we can help them. >> we appreciate that message. that is so critical. to figure out what is really going on on the ground it is helpful to talk to the people who actually are dealing with those regulations and customs issues and corruption issues, et cetera. i wanted to give you the opportunity to give that message. let me shift briefly to my second topic. the linkage between security and development. in terms of the department of homeland security, you have a broader mandate. central america is not just troubled by job creation, but also drug trafficking. some of that is facilitated by the south american regime. what is the linkage between crime and criminal activity and
economic growth and development? how do you view these issues? >> i think they are very much linked. this is a message that has been clear from this administration. i remember a press conference tillersonsecretary talking about the u.s. responsibility with our drug demand in creating violence and by enrichingico and empowering criminal organizations. i absolutely think there is a link. for years, the route of cocaine from the andes to the u.s. stopped with maritime vessels in central america. we have made progress working with the government of guatemala, for instance. 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. that has got to be a commitment. they are directly related. >> the final question, if you will indulge me, before you spoke we were honored to have words from the foreign minister of mexico. mexico should be a very these issues.r in president trump, vice president pence, others have spoken about cooperation on development in central america. obrador haspez indicated this is an area of cooperation. what form does not take? about cooperation. what does it actually mean in the context of the department only security? >> starting from a dhs perspective and parochial leave from my customs and border
perspective, i think we have been able to establish an approach at our shared border .o moving cargo really taking a process that could take three stops with multiple government agencies and two nations down to one stop and reducing the time for trade and the security of trade, answering that exponentially. that is the kind of thing the u.s. and mexico and with my new colleagues i met with, the secretary in my first couple weeks, that we could bring as partners to support that customs .nd supply-chain barrier effort that is one specific area. these transnational criminal organizations are just that. iny are advertising guatemala, rural areas of honduras, bringing folks all the way through mexico.
we need to attack that together. we need to share information. we need to disrupt those routes to protect people and disrupt criminal organizations. onlso would echo your points secretary barr's commitment to development in southern mexico and central america. i think that is very much a shared commitment with the united states. i would defer to my state colleagues. as we talk about solutions in the long term at the cabinet table, that will be something i emphasize. >> i would love to continue the conversation. we are beyond time for what has been a very full day. began, andwhere we that is the conversation on central america. we began with the
president-elect of el salvador. this is an area where countries of goodwill can show partnership together to address very difficult issues in the hemisphere together. is where we started the conference. we are ending with a great message to send us off on. i hope you will come back to the council of the americas. the private sector, we can help advance the development of central america. we want to be partners. you just need to ask. would you please join me in thanking him? [applause] announcer: c-span's newest book "the presidents." historians rank america's best and worst chief executives, provide insight into the lives throughresidents
stories from interviews with noted historians. it is one of the -- explore the life events, challenges they faced, and legacies they left behind. order your copy today. presidents" is available as a hardcover or e-book. and a look at live coverage wednesday. 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span, the house meets for general speeches with legislative business at noon. on the agenda, a set of bills that include expanding access to broadband internet. on c-span2 at 8:00 a.m., nancy pelosi discusses legislative priorities at an event hosted by the washington post. that's followed by the senate returning to debate additional and executive nominations. at 80 clock p.m., president trump holding a campaign rally in florida. c-span3, the house judiciary
committee meets to debate a resolution to hold william barr in contempt for not providing an unredacted copy of the mueller report to the committee. >> the c-span bus recently traveled to california asking folks, what does it mean to be american? >> what it means to me is that every child has an educational opportunity that leads to career ability to the sustain themselves financially and make sure they can participate in our democracy. >> being an american is not about your skin color. it is about where you came from. it is about the beliefs you have about our constitution and the rule of law and the belief that
people are brought together by beliefs, not where they came from, not your skin color -- what defines you our fundamental beliefs about the constitution. >> what it means to be an american is the fact that being a woman and having the kind of power i have, i can vote, i can drive. a lot of places in the world they are denied to me. i feel so blessed to live at this time in this country. >> being an american is to enjoy the freedoms and liberties we have. also celebrating our diversity and trying to increase liberty for all. >> voices from the road on c-span. next, we hear from fbi director christopher wray at a senate appropriations subcommittee hearing. after that, molly reynolds with