DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas at Handover Ceremony Migrant Reception Center

July 7, 2021

Good afternoon.

This reception center for returned migrants is a shining example of the power of partnership and what two countries can do to respect the dignity of individuals. And in this particular case, the wellbeing of Guatemalans who are returning here to Guatemala and how best we can assist them in reintegrating into their communities here to best achieve their wellbeing and prosperity.  I want to thank the President and Minister Brolo, and other government leaders for their partnership and the extraordinary commitment to that partnership.

We are committed to ending irregular migration, to ending the need of mothers to put their children in the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers who do not care about the wellbeing of those children, but only want to exploit them to make a dollar.  We are committed to creating lawful, safe, orderly and humane pathways for individuals who qualify for humanitarian relief so that they do not need to take the perilous journey North and do not need to expose their lives to those who seek to exploit them.

This Resource Center today is only one example. We have so many other efforts underway.  First, let me thank our own U.S. Agency for International Development that really helped make this center possible with a contribution of $1.2 million.  And I want to thank the men and women who work in this center who dedicate their efforts, their talents, to the wellbeing of the Guatemalan people who have returned.

We want people to travel safely by plane with a visa in their hands, rather than take that dangerous journey. And I can share with you personally in the role that I have, as the Secretary of Homeland Security, along with my colleagues, who are here with me, that we have seen too many tragedies, that for every individual who arrives at the border, there are those who don’t, because they could not make it safely.

We also are very well aware of so many who do arrive at the border, who have suffered so much at the hands of the unscrupulous traffickers, only to be returned from the United States to Guatemala.  We are building programs here so that those tragedies do not need to occur today, and certainly not tomorrow.

We have dedicated 6000 visas for seasonal workers so that they can travel safely to the United States, earn money, and return with that money to take care of their families and their loved ones.  We have dedicated 4000 positions for individuals who qualify as refugees, so that they too, do not need to take that perilous journey and can be brought to the United States safely to obtain the humanitarian relief that our laws provide. But irregular migration too often leads to death, too often leads to tragedy, only to be returned to the country of one’s home.

We are building processing centers here and facilities here that will screen people under United States law to determine whether they qualify. And if they do, they will be brought to the United States under our laws in a safe and orderly way. But irregular migration too often leads to tragedy, it is our obligation as close partners, as humanitarian countries dedicated to the well-being of our people, to prevent that irregular migration from occurring. I want to thank the President and Minister Brolo, for the commitments that they have made to as a partnership, of which we are very proud, to the commitment to advancing the wellbeing of the Guatemalan people, to humanitarian relief to which both our countries are committed, and most importantly and significantly, to the dignity of every individual.   And, it is the safe and legal pathways that we are building, that most respects that dignity and protects it and safeguards.

Thank you very much.