One percent of the populations of Guatemala and Honduras have migrated to the United States in the last six months, according to acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan.
In a speech before the 49th Washington Conference of the Americas Tuesday night, McAleenan explained that 1% of the population of both Central American countries has arrived in the U.S, including 3% of one Guatemalan county.
As IJR previously reported, the massive influx of migrant families from Central America has overwhelmed Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention facilities and forced Border Patrol agents to release migrants into the U.S. on their own recognizance to return at a later date to have their asylum claim heard.
McAleenan said the situation is both a “security and humanitarian crisis,” adding, “The situation is not sustainable.”
The acting DHS secretary explained that Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 100,000 migrants per month and don’t see that flow decreasing anytime soon.
“In March, we had over 103,000 irregular arrivals of undocumented migrants — 90% crossing the U.S. border unlawfully and unsafely in the hands of human smugglers. We will see similar numbers in April,” McAleenan explained.
McAleenan noted that a recent USAID study found that one in four Guatemalans have the intention of migrating out of their home country in the near future, with 85% listing the United States as their final destination.
“That’s over 4 million Guatemalans who intend to migrate to the United States. Imagine if almost the entire population of the state of Western United States left the country. What kind of impact would that have on the economy, culture, and identity? What does that mean for future generations?”
McAleenan blamed Congress for the problem, claiming that their inaction on weak immigration policies encourages migrants to make the treck north because they know they will be able to stay.
“The main cause of the current increases is the weakness in the U.S. immigration system, the vulnerabilities of our legal framework, which allow migrants, especially families and unaccompanied children, to stay in the U.S. for months or years, even though the vast majority will not ultimately receive legal status.”
The acting DHS secretary explained that he is hoping to work closely with Central American leaders to help address the problems in those countries to slow the migrant flow into the U.S.