TUCSON, Arizona–A member of Guatemalan First Lady Rosa Leal de Pérez’s entourage that traveled to southern Arizona this week provided a Breitbart Texas source with some inside information on Tuesday about Vice President Joe Biden’s appeal to Central American leaders and civil society groups on June 20. Miriam Celada, from the migrant shelter Hogar Nuestra Raices in Guatemala City, also indicated that the human smuggling situation from Guatemala to the United States is more dire than many people realize.
Celada was en route to Tucson, where Leal de Pérez visited the city’s Greyhound bus station to see women and children who had been dropped off by immigration officials after being apprehended at the border and processed by Border Patrol agents. The Guatemalan First Lady also toured the Tucson Border Patrol Sector and the Nogales Placement Center, where over a thousand unaccompanied alien children (UACs) have been temporarily housed after being apprehended in south Texas over the past several weeks.
The source, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, engaged in a conversation with Celada because he/she was familiar with the security and economic conditions in her country, as well as the growing immigration crisis in south Texas. Celada explained that migrants traveling north to the US mostly come from just five areas in Guatemala’s western highlands. She also said that coyotes, or human smugglers, tell immigrants they will front the money to transport them to the US border and then give them three chances to cross it successfully. The immigrants then owe the smugglers the fronted money–which can range from $5,000 to $8,000 per person–regardless of whether or not they make it into the US.
Celada also spoke about Vice President Biden’s visit to Guatemala City on June 20, where after speaking to President Otto Pérez Molina, he went to the Chief of Mission Residence to hold a roundtable discussion with Leal de Pérez, Celada, and representatives from other civil society groups. Celada said Biden was very clear when he told the roundtable that Guatemalan leaders could not just allow the nation’s children to travel alone to the United States. However, Biden raised some eyebrows when he said that he also came from a family of immigrants–an attempt to sympathize that probably fell very flat with the audience, considering that Biden’s ancestors traveled from Ireland to New York City in 1849 under very different circumstances.
Hogar Nuestra Raices, which means Home of Our Roots in Spanish, is a common first stop for unaccompanied minors who have been deported back to Guatemala from the US and other countries–usually Mexico. According to Werner Mirella, director of the shelter, the main reason Guatemalan migrants travel to the US is to reunite with family members. Once they reach the shelter after being deported, they are accompanied by two monitors–usually a representative of the Attorney General’s officer and a social worker. According to Guatemalan law, the minors can stay in the shelter for a maximum of 72 hours before they have to be either released to a family member or placed in a hostel to continue psychological treatment. Werner explained that the institution also tracked the minors in their communities after their release in order to prevent future attempts to make the dangerous journey north.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about the evolution of cross-border migration in her new book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.