LOS ANGELES — The Biden administration wants countries along a dangerous migration route through South and Central America to commit to expanding their asylum systems and enforcing their borders to help cope with the unprecedented flow of migrants at its southern border with Mexico, in a new regional partnership that was announced on Friday during the final day of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
“President Biden calls on all governments along the migration route to establish and strengthen the processing of asylum claims in each of their respective countries, while more effectively enforcing their borders, carrying out checks and deporting people who do not qualify for asylum,” a senior administration official said. .
Current rates of irregular migration are unprecedented, US officials said, and affect nearly every country in South and Central America, as well as others in the Caribbean.
As part of the declaration, governments will commit to expanding temporary worker programs to address labor shortages while reducing irregular migration. The commitments also call for the expansion of other legal channels for migration, including refugee resettlement and family reunification.
The senior official said the administration will increase funding to help countries hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, such as Colombia, and work with international financial institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank to help low-income countries. intermediary to better cope with the burden of reception. displaced persons.
The United States also pledges to help countries “combat and eradicate” human trafficking networks that prey on migrants through a large-scale law enforcement effort aimed at dismantling the networks. across Latin America.
“The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection is centered on responsibility-sharing and economic support for countries that have been most affected by refugee and migration flows,” a senior administration official said. . “It establishes a framework for a coordinated and predictable way for states to manage migration.”
Although the administration official called the statement “ambitious,” it’s unclear how many countries will sign on to it or how they are expected to fund increased border security and other initiatives. Several countries that are among the largest senders of migrants, such as Cuba, Venezuela and several Central American countries, were not invited to the Summit or did not send their heads of state.
The US official also said some of the proposed measures, such as expanding legal pathways for migrants, would likely require congressional approval.
Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, who served as president of Costa Rica between 2014 and 2018, during which time his nation became a land bridge for migrants, said tackling historic flows will take more than money, but also new laws in the United States “to use the human”. capital that migration provides in a more intelligent and humanitarian way.
“Yes, migration laws must be enforced, but it cannot be done by violating human rights as some politicians in Texas and Florida suggest,” he said.
Solis said the Biden administration correctly identified the structural causes of migration in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“He also expressed his willingness to contribute with significant financial and technical resources to mitigate these causes ($4 billion), as well as to support new investments for an additional $3 billion from private sources,” Solis said in a statement. an email to the Herald. . “This is no small feat and should be welcomed and recognized.
“Yet all of these efforts will not stop human flows and therefore require further action in both the United States and Central America,” he added.
Support for Haiti
In addition to asking countries for help, the United States will also announce new support for Haiti, the administration official said. The Caribbean nation’s growing political instability, escalating gang violence and ongoing kidnappings have deepened the migration crisis.
While more than 20,000 Haitian migrants have irregularly crossed the U.S. southern land border with Mexico in the past 10 months, more than 5,300 Haitians have been apprehended at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard since October in the most great exodus of Haitians by boat for nearly 20 years.
The majority are bound for the Florida Keys and the US territory of Puerto Rico. But they also wash up in dangerous and overcrowded ships in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Cuba, while using the neighboring Dominican Republic as a springboard for Puerto Rico, Mexico and Latin America.
“We recognize the need to widen the pathways of people in general, but also in particular, countries where we see high outflows that are directly linked to humanitarian situations and security situations,” said the head of the administration. “I think the goal is to provide legal pathways so people don’t have to take irregular means to get to safety or reunite with their families.”
Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s invitation to attend the summit has been criticized by some Haitian and U.S. lawmakers. But a number of people, including Republic of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, insisted on Henry’s presence at the summit, noting that the country’s instability is a cause for concern across the region.
“In Haiti, we continue to work for a transition that leads to proper elections supported by all the Haitian people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the summit when asked about Henry’s attendance. “We continue to work to confront the gang violence that plagues the country and causes terrible damage to the people of Haiti. We continue to work to try to find ways to support the people of Haiti, who have endured more than their fair share of problems over the past few years, both human and natural.
Since taking the reins of power after the assassination last July of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, Henry has been at odds with members of civil society who want to lead the country’s two-year transition. Worsening paralysis, kidnappings and worsening poverty are fueling despair and a new wave of migration.
Record numbers of Haitians are not only showing up at the southern border of the United States, where they arrive after traveling through a dozen countries in South and Central America and after spending years living in Chile and in Brazil, but they also wash up on the coasts. from the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico after boarding rickety boats in the largest exodus of Haitians leaving by boat from the island of Hispaniola in nearly 20 years.
More than 1,400 have managed to land since October after being stranded in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico by boat.
Details on what additional assistance the United States will provide are scarce. But the United States, which had a bilateral meeting with Henry on the sidelines of the summit this week, is under increasing pressure to provide more assistance to the country, particularly in the area of security where a national police of weakened Haiti has not been able to control the kidnappings. and killings by armed gangs that now control large swaths of Port-au-Prince. The country is also facing a growing humanitarian and economic crisis.
US President Joe Biden addresses a plenary session of the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, June 9, 2022.