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Not-so-homeland security: US to send DHS ‘advisers’ to Guatemala border

Not-so-homeland security: US to send DHS ‘advisers’ to Guatemala border
The US Department of Homeland Security is working with the Guatemalan government on the country’s northern border to stem the flow of migrants, reportedly sending dozens of agents south in an advisory capacity.

DHS agents, acting as “advisers” to Guatemalan police and migration agencies, have been dispatched to “disrupt and interdict human smuggling operations” in the country, an anonymous official told the Washington Post, which reported as many as 80 law enforcement officials will be heading south to patrol Guatemala’s increasingly desolate borderlands.

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Their joint mission involves “combating human trafficking and the smuggling of illegal goods, helping to limit ‘push’ factors that encourage dangerous irregular migration to the U.S.,” and stopping illegal financial flows, according to a DHS press release. Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan spent most of the week in Guatemala meeting with local civic and NGO leaders, as well as officials from other Central American nations, signing a memorandum of cooperation with his Guatemalan counterpart on Tuesday.

Beyond merely stopping migration, the DHS mission claims it will “highlight the root causes driving the current high rate of irregular migration to the US, as well as viable options for enhancing protections of vulnerable populations.” Previous Trump administration rhetoric has focused largely on punishment and threats, with the president slashing foreign aid to Guatemala as well as Honduras and El Salvador over their failure to stop citizens from leaving for the US, and threatening Mexico with tariffs for allowing those citizens to continue past its borders.

But dispatching dozens of armed DHS agents into a foreign country isn’t enough for some. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) has argued President Donald Trump should send American troops “on a humanitarian mission to help secure Guatemala’s border,” claiming in a letter last month that Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales “has indicated that he would welcome the introduction of US troops” to secure the north.

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The western region of Huehuetenango is emptying out dramatically, with more than 3 percent of the entire population packing up and leaving for the US within the last seven months, according to DHS officials. Elsewhere, residents claim half the population of their village has left for greener pastures in the past two years – literally, in some cases, abandoning coffee fields and selling houses to pay people-smugglers.

US immigration authorities have stopped over 300,000 migrants at the Mexican border in the last three months, and illegal crossings have shot up to the highest level in 12 years after a long and steady decline. The country’s resources for handling the problem are spent, according to McAleenan, who told reporters on Thursday that border patrol is currently processing about 4,500 new arrivals each day.

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