Acting DHS Secretary Wolf’s Remarks with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández

Acting DHS Secretary Wolf’s Remarks with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández

Good afternoon.

Thank you, President Hernández and the Government of Honduras, for the warm welcome to your beautiful country.  Honduras is a valued and proven partner to the United States in managing migration and promoting security and prosperity in Central America. Your partnership touches nearly every corner of the United States government, but the Department of Homeland Security is especially fortunate to enjoy such a strong and productive bilateral relationship with you.

I also want to thank you for your strong public condemnation of Iran’s recent actions.

The U.S.-Honduran partnership is deeply rooted in the vision we share for a secure and prosperous region.  When the United States began to see a record volume of migrants illegally crossing our border, Honduras was a leader in convening its neighbors to find a solution.  We’ve since created a historic regional partnership to reduce illegal migration and invest in the future of Honduras.

Mr. President—I commend your forward-leaning efforts to improve public security to attract greater investment to Honduras. I also commend your Administration’s commitment to extend the generosity of Honduras to the region’s most vulnerable people, as we work towards implementing our asylum agreement.  As you continue to do more to secure your borders, dismantle gangs and cartels, and implement our asylum agreement, the United States government will continue to invest in and support the economic growth in Honduras.

To wrap up this important visit, I’d like to provide some context to the efforts by highlighting critical lines of effort that the United States has committed to with Honduras.

I’ll first speak to what our countries are working to achieve with respect to our security efforts.  As I’ve said before, our robust collaboration on security matters is the foundation of our countries’ vibrant partnership.  It’s also a catalyst for growth and investment in the Honduran economy.

Two of the agreements that we have signed, the Border Security Arrangement as well as the Biometrics Data Sharing Program Arrangement were designed with this in mind.  The Border Security Arrangement will soon allow DHS to deploy additional CBP and ICE personnel to Honduras.  Those personnel will support the capacity-building efforts of the Honduran migration, border security, and customs counterparts—working together to target the gangs and cartels that spread corruption, violence, and fear in Honduras.  Based on the results of similar border security agreements in the region, I’m confident that this program will be a resounding success.

We’re also working towards implementation of the Biometrics Data Sharing Program Agreement to enhance our information sharing.  This agreement will connect Honduran law enforcement authorities to a broader regional network, with the purpose of combatting crime, human smuggling, trafficking, and other public security threats.  If transnational criminal organizations are wise, they’ll take their business out of Honduras—or otherwise face the full force of the law.

Continued partnership with the United States on these areas of mutual security concern will not only bring security but will also bring prosperity to Honduras through the U.S.-Honduras H2A agreement.  Your partnership will create jobs, opportunity, and build more modern and critical infrastructure in Honduras. The H2A agreement will ensure that your populations are not victimized in their seeking legal migration to the U.S.

The recently launched U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, or DFC, under CEO Adam Boehler, is committed to supporting economic growth in Honduras and expanding bilateral partnerships with your government.  The DFC currently has over $235 million invested in Honduras, including $135 million in financing of the first geothermal power plant in the country.  The DFC expects to mobilize millions more in private sector investment to create meaningful economic opportunities for the Honduran people.

Another job creator is the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, who has partnered with the Honduran government and private sector stakeholders to push forward a number of programs and initiatives.  As you can see, a secure and prosperous Honduras is a goal shared across the United States government.

As my meeting today with the President of Honduras reiterated, Honduras understands the role that they’re well-positioned to play when it comes to offering asylum in the region.  The implementation of the Asylum Cooperative Agreement, or ACA, is a critical step in Honduras on undertaking this humanitarian responsibility.  I am pleased to say that our teams, as the President has mentioned, have finalized the joint implementation steps so that we can begin implementing in the coming weeks.

To build asylum capacity in Honduras smoothly and efficiently, we plan to implement in phases, which will allow us to gradually roll out the program, while working through operational considerations in questions on a small scale, ensuring that the Honduran asylum system is not overwhelmed.  Not only does ACA fulfill a humanitarian responsibility, but it also serves a security purpose.  With access to protections in Honduras and throughout the region, fewer individuals will make the dangerous journey to the United States.  Said another way—the ACA helps put human smugglers and traffickers out of business.

In the spirit of our shared goals, DHS and the Government of Honduras has already identified the next steps of our strategy.  And that is improving security and working with the private sector and international communities to foster economic growth and prosperity in Honduras.

Mr. President, I look forward to working closely with you and your administration to this end moving forward, as we implement our various agreements and arrangements.

I’ll close with this message:  We will continue to work with the Honduran government to advance our shared goals of security and prosperity to meet the needs of the Honduran people who yearn for a more secure Honduras in which to raise your families and to provide a better future.

And to President Hernandez—thank you for the candid conversations today and for your leadership on these issues. I look forward to returning the hospitality next week when a number of your individuals and officials visit Washington, D.C.  So we look forward to the cooperation and again thank you for everything that you’ve done.

Thank you.