WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has warned would-be illegal migrants from Central America not to waste their money on paying for a human trafficker to enter the United States because they “will be turned around within our laws relatively quickly and returned.”
His comments came during an event on Central America hosted by the international affairs think tank Atlantic Council on Thursday.
Retired Marine Gen. Kelly noted that illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border has dropped by an estimated 70 percent under President Donald Trump’s administration.
He also mentioned that the Trump administration is planning to invest money in the economies of Central American countries to provide potential illegal migrants with “a reason to stay home” where their family and friends are.
“The message [to would be illegal immigrants] is if you get here and if you paid the traffickers you will probably get here, but you will be turned around within our laws relatively quickly and returned,” declared Kelly. “It’s not worth wasting your money.”
“If that message remains, which it will, and we help the economies, I think it’s a win-win for both the region as well as for the United States, he added.
Kelly pointed out that, although the majority of illegal migrants come to the U.S. in search of economic opportunities, a substantial portion of young undocumented people is involved in gang-related criminal activities.
“The overwhelming number of people that come are good, decent people looking for a better way to make a living,” noted the DHS chief.
“An awful lot of them, not a majority by no means these are good people as a group but because of a lot of different reasons, the young men are often times in relatively large numbers drawn into crime,” he later said. “Not all of them but some of them. MS-13 is full of people that have come here from that part [Central America] of the world and are criminals.”
“An awful lot of the young women get taken into the other kinds of trade — sex trade that kind of thing, not all of them, but many of them,” he also said.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently vowed to eradicate the savage MS-13 transnational criminal gang.
“We are targeting you,” said Sessions during a speech in New York.
“The MS-13 motto is kill, rape, and control,” he added. “I have a message to the gangs that are targeting our young people: We are targeting you. We are coming after you.”
This year, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), charged with overseeing American military activity in most of Latin America, warned that jihadist groups are radicalizing and recruiting people in Central American regions “awash” with street gangs, namely MS-13.
Citing the FBI, SOUTHCOM reported that MS-13 is believed to be operating in 42 U.S. states, “with a significant presence in Houston, Long Island, Charlotte, and Washington, DC.”
According to a recent poll, nearly 50 percent of those surveyed support designating MS-13 as a terrorist organization.
The government of El Salvador, the gang’s stronghold in Central America, has already deemed the group a terrorist organization.
In the United States, MS-13 has been officially listed as a “transnational criminal organization,” the only street gang to the list.
Retired Gen. Kelly served as SOUTHCOM commander.