Secretary Mayorkas Opening Remarks at National Palace

Thank you very much, Minister Brolo, for your warm welcome to Guatemala. It was a privilege to meet with the Minister and the President of Guatemala to explore how we can deepen our partnership, our nations’ close ties around issues of mutual concern. I very much look forward to our friendship throughout the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Our discussion today focused on our common commitments to promoting the health and wellbeing of our families and our workers, preserving our nations’ security, defending the rule of law and respecting the dignity of every human being. Neither of us, neither of our countries, can meet those goals alone. Doing so requires smart policies, strong leadership, and deep partnership between our governments and across our region. I’m very proud to represent the Biden-Harris administration in working together on this. Today, we are seeing the latest example of how close ties can yield tangible results for the well-being of the Guatemalan people. As a shipment of 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in this country, later this week, on Thursday.

The United States is supplying these lifesaving vaccines for a simple reason. This is a global pandemic. And we can only end it if we get shots into everyone’s arms safely, swiftly, equitably; no matter where they live. COVID-19 is still impacting too many individuals and taking too many lives in the United States, across the Americas, and around the world. And this is one more step in the broader strategy throughout the Biden-Harris administration to defeat this disease. This is the right thing to do. This is the smart thing to do because we can only defeat this virus together.

Beyond this critical announcement of the delivery of 1.5 million vaccines later this week, the meeting with the President and Minister Brolo focused on three key priorities, among others. First, port security. The Department of Homeland Security, alongside the rest of the Biden-Harris administration, is determined to help Guatemala enhance safety at the ports. My department will keep working with our Guatemalan partners to strengthen port operations to combat corruption and stop illegal trafficking of drugs and counterfeit goods. Taking these steps, and more, is vital to facilitate lawful trade and travel, protecting global supply chains, and keeping customers and communities secure. The battle against illegal trafficking serves our economic prosperity and facilitates lawful trade and travel between our countries and throughout the world.

Second: fighting criminal organizations, protecting Guatemalans in their homes, and neighbors and neighborhoods, opens doors to so many more jobs, so much more safety, more opportunity. We can only reach that objective by rooting out corruption and reducing crimes. Between the transnational criminal investigative unit, the mobile tactical interdiction unit, and other efforts, we will continue together to invest in law enforcement cooperation, training, and support between our two countries.

Last: we talked about how we can create additional lawful pathways for migration as quickly as possible, so that individuals do not need to migrate irregularly by risking their lives, or those of their children, who are entrusting and putting their faith in unscrupulous human smugglers.

Together, we are focused on actions to manage irregular migration across our borders. The President deserves credit and recognition for his extraordinary work on this front, already promoting protection pathways in Guatemala by opening, for example, the nation’s refugee center this past February. This was one step forward, and a very important one. We also look forward to continuing our work together on collaboration on the Migration Resource Center, which I will visit tomorrow, and to ensure that people at risk of persecution are able to access opportunities to seek protection as close to home as possible.

And we are committed to expanding access to opportunities to work in the United States, specifically focused on individuals from Guatemala and elsewhere in the region. To that end, President Biden has prioritized providing Guatemalan workers the opportunity to work legally in the United States through the H2B visa program. And we will also be expanding opportunities for agricultural work through the H2A program while always protecting the rights of American workers. The bottom line is that no matter the issue, or the challenge, the United States and Guatemala can only succeed and thrive if we work together, if we engage in open dialogue, if we keep open the lines of communication, and if we unite around smart solutions. That is what we are here today to do. That is what our partnership and friendship are dedicated to. And it is a privilege to be here with the Minister and to have met together with the President. Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers  

Q – Sergio Morales, Prensa Libre:  10:15 Good afternoon Secretary Mayorkas, welcome to Guatemala, I have a question for you: how much security concerns in the ports of Guatemala, did you mention that it was an issue discussed today with the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, for 2 years a law has not been approved that controls and regulates the ports in the country, it has been stranded in congress, recently the government issued a regulation but this obviously does not have the level of hierarchy that a law has. How much does this lack of approval of the law in the body worry legislative?

A – Secretary Mayorkas: Port security is a challenge for any country.  It provides an opportunity for tremendous economic growth through lawful trade and travel. But it also presents a vulnerability that can be exploited by those who violate our laws.  The President, the Minister, and I have enjoyed a tremendous partnership. in strengthening the ports. We share a dedication to port security.  The United States Customs and Border Protection has a partnership with the Guatemalan authorities to strengthen the partners and the partnership.  We’re dedicated to strengthening that partnership throughout the days ahead. And the President articulated his commitment to strengthening port security as a shared interest, as a shared and common challenge, one that we will tackle together.

Q – Univisión Erica Porras (Univisión):  11:58

Good afternoon, welcome Mr. National Secretary of Security of the United States, welcome to Guatemala, Chancellor Brolo, nice to meet you, thank you for the opportunity, the question you send from Miami is what Guatemala and the so-called triangle countries have promised to do so far North facing irregular emigration to the United States when corruption is also a common denominator where the perception of the population is that these, these great efforts are not going to reach the population and in Guatemala the phenomenon that is being experienced is that 300 More people are migrating to the United States, which means that soon God forbid, in the United States there will be many more Guatemalans and in Guatemala fewer citizens.

A – Secretary Mayorkas: The challenge of migration is multi-faceted – the challenge of irregular migration. People often leave their homes, their countries of origin, seeking greater economic opportunity. The President and the Minister – the Government of Guatemala – is doing tremendous work in addressing the challenge of irregular migration in partnership with us; and in the trilateral relationship of Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States. Of course, our Vice President, Vice President Harris, visited here not too long ago, to address the root causes of migration, to see what opportunities there are to address the economic challenges and create opportunities in partnership with the government of Guatemala, for the people of Guatemala. We are also, importantly, together a building safe, legal and orderly pathways for people to migrate north. The refugee center is a shining example of that, that the president of Guatemala announced in February of this year.  The migration resource center is a novel pilot that will have great promise with respect to ensuring that people don’t feel that they need to take the dangerous journey north and put their wellbeing and their savings in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. And we are also together working on law enforcement challenges to address the traffickers in drugs the traffickers in people and that is what brings me here is the partnership that we enjoy and to which we are committed across the spectrum of challenges and opportunities together. Thank you.

Q – Guatevision, Carlos Kestler 17:40: 

Good afternoon, to Secretary Mayorkas, under the understanding that corruption in Guatemala is one of the causes of migration to the United States, what effects does the United States expect that the publication of the Engel list last week will have on the emigration of Guatemalans to the United States? USA? And what message does the White House give to those close to the people who are already on this list, such as the deputies who voted in favor of swearing in the current magistrates of the Constitutional Court? 

A – Secretary Mayorkas: Forgive me I’m not sure I understand the question to what you’re referring specifically. I believe like I answered the prior question with respect to the challenges of migration in what our two countries are doing together to address the challenges of irregular migration from start to finish. 

Q – Guatevision, Carlos Kestler

The question is specifically, what does the United States expect about the effects of the State Department’s publication of the Engel list last week on the emigration of Guatemalans to the United States?

A – Secretary Mayorkas: Let me just say this if I, if I may.  We had a tremendously productive conversation this morning, the President, the Minister, and our respective teams. We touched upon many different opportunities for strengthening the partnership that our two countries already enjoy. I spoke of course, as did the Minister, of our shared battle against traffickers in narcotics, people, and other contraband. We spoke of the opportunities of partnership to advance the prosperity of the Guatemalan people through port security programs, joint programs, and the like.  And, of course, we addressed the challenges of irregular migration: the fact that people leave for a variety of reasons. They place their own lives, the lives of their loved ones, even the lives of their children, in the hands of smugglers, in whose hands their safety certainly cannot be assured. We have begun and are further building programs so that people do not need to leave unsafely. So that they do not leave, do not leave a need to travel irregularly. I cited two examples earlier in my opening remarks with respect to two examples of opportunity: temporary workers in the United States — agricultural work in the United States — that provides opportunity for people to travel safely, to work safely in the United States, and not surrender themselves to the traffickers. We are working across the spectrum – together – and our partnership will only become stronger in the days ahead. Thank you.

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