In a recent exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, Guatemalan Minister of Governance, Enrique Degenhart, revealed that his fellow countrymen are not fleeing because of economic or security reasons. Instead, Degenhart claimed they are leaving due to incentives offered by Mexico and the United States.
“Let me start by saying that our macroeconomic numbers in the country are very good. We have actually the lowest criminal rates in the country that we have had in the past 15 or 20 years which means that it’s probably not a factor of economics or security,” Degenhart stated.
Indeed, Degenhart is right. The Guatemalan economy saw major improvements over the last decade. Between 2007 and 2017, their annual GDP more than doubled, increasing from $34 billion to $76 billion. Meanwhile, the country’s unemployment rate fell from 4.13 percent in 2011, to 2.73 percent in 2018.
Degenhart is also right about Guatemala’s progress in reducing violence. In fact, between 2011 and 2017, the Guatemalan homicide rate fell from 38.6 per 100,000 individuals to 19.0 per 100,000 individuals.
So if the economic and security situations are not as dire as suggested by congressional Democrats and the mainstream media, then why are migrants leaving at a record rate? According to Degenhart, it’s because of the “pull factors” that exist in Mexico and the U.S.
“When I talk about the pull factor, I’m talking about our neighbor, Mexico –that unfortunately has been offering different kinds of benefits, admin benefits like visas and other kinds of work permits and situations that basically enhance the interests of our Guatemalans on using Mexico as a route to get to the U.S.,” he said.
Aside from Mexico, Degenhart also suggested the U.S. incentivizes Guatemalans to leave.
“We do think most of them come [to the United States]looking for jobs. The boost in the economy in the U.S. is also generating interest from our Guatemalans,” he conceded.
Although wages in Guatemala are lower than the wages found in the U.S., the disparity does not qualify a migrant for asylum. Additionally, experiencing domestic or gang violence generally does not qualify a migrant for asylum since that type of violence is not perpetrated by the government.
The large increases in apprehension totals from the Northern Triangle countries indicate that migrants are intending to exploit the nation’s asylum system. The vast majority present fraudulent asylum claims as seen by the 77.2 percent of Guatemalans who were denied asylum in the U.S. between FY 2011 and FY 2016.
If the Guatemalan government can publicly admit that its country’s conditions aren’t as problematic some suggest, then Congress, especially House Democrats, should take immediate notice. Lawmakers must close the nation’s asylum loopholes, increase oversight on future international aid, and provide more resources (detention space, personnel, and infrastructure) at the southern border.