Posted on June 13, 2022

U.S. Seeks Help Controlling ‘Unprecedented’ Flow of Migrants From Latin American Nations

Jacqueline Charles and Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald, June 11, 2022

The Biden administration wants countries along a dangerous migration route through South and Central America to help address the unprecedented flow of migrants at the southern border with Mexico by committing to expand their asylum systems and enforce their borders under a new regional partnership announced Friday during the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

The administration secured the support of 18 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which are some of the main emitters of migrants to United States. Mexico also signed even though its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, snubbed the gathering after the U.S. opted not to invite certain nondemocratic leaders. Canada signed the declaration as well, bringing the total number of countries to 20.

“We are committed to protecting the safety and dignity of all migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons, regardless of their migratory status, and respecting their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the countries, including the United States, said in the declaration. “We intend to cooperate closely to facilitate safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration and, as appropriate, promote safe and dignified returns, consistent with national legislation, the principle of non-refoulement, and our respective obligations under international law.”

The plan requires governments along the migratory route to establish and fortify asylum processing in each of their respective countries “while more effectively enforcing their borders, conducting screenings and removing those individuals who do not qualify for asylum,” a senior administration official said.

The current rates of irregular migration are unprecedented, U.S. officials have said, and affect nearly every country in South and Central America, as well as others in the Caribbean.

Under the declaration, governments committed to expand 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 like Colombia that host large numbers of migrants and refugees and work with international financial institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank to help middle-income countries better cope with the burden of welcoming displaced people.

The United States is also committing to help countries “combat and root out” human smuggling networks that prey on migrants through a large-scale law enforcement effort aimed at dismantling networks across Latin America.

“The Los Angeles Declaration on migration and protection is centered around responsibility sharing and economic support for countries that have been most impacted by refugee and migration flows,” said a senior administration official. “It sets forth a framework for a coordinated and predictable way for states to manage migration.”

While the administration official described the declaration as “ambitious,” there are little details on how countries are expected to fund increased border security and other initiatives. Several countries that are among the largest emitters of migrants like Cuba, Venezuela and several Central American countries, were not invited to the summit or did not send their heads of state.

The U.S. official also said that some of the proposed measures, like expanding legal pathways for migrants, would likely require Congress’ approval.

On Friday, the administration also announced it was resuming the expedited family reunification programs for Cubans and Haitians, expanding refugee resettlement and increasing funding to respond to the Venezuela crisis. The State Department said the United States will resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas over the next two years, “a three-fold increase over projected arrivals this fiscal year.”

But the resettling number is small compared to the commitment of receiving 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and given the large influx of people displaced in the region, among them more than 6 million Venezuelans. USAID also announced $314 million in new “humanitarian, health, economic, and development assistance” for Venezuelan refugees and vulnerable migrants across the hemisphere.

Also among the commitments, the administration said it will provide $25 million to the Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) to prioritize support for countries in Latin America, such as Ecuador and Costa Rica, to support programs benefiting refugees and asylum seekers. The GCFF is a World Bank fund created in 2016 to provide financial support to middle-income countries around the world impacted by refugee crises.


Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, who served as president of Costa Rica between 2014-2018 during which his nation became a land bridge for migrants, said addressing the historic flows will require more than money. He said there must be new laws in the United States “to use the human capital that migration provides in more intelligent and humanitarian ways.”

“Yes, migration laws must be enforced, but this can’t be done violating human rights as some politicians in Texas and Florida suggest,” he said.

Solís said the Biden administration has correctly identified the structural causes of migration in the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

“It has also expressed its willingness to contribute with significant financial and technical resources to ease those causes ($4 billion), as well as to support new investments for an additional $3 billion coming from private sources,” Solís said in an email to the Herald. {snip}


A United Nations study, citing the government of Panama, said that last year more than 133,000 people irregularly crossed the border between the Central American nation and Colombia.

The region, known as the Darien Gap, is one of the world’s most treacherous migrant routes. Nearly 90,000 of those who crossed in 2021 were Haitian nationals, many of whom had been living in Chile and Brazil in the years after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

The migration pact comes as thousands of refugees continue to gather at the U.S. southern border with Mexico, hoping to cross into the United States without the risk of either getting quickly expelled back to Mexico or to their home country.

The number of Haitians in Central and South America is unknown. But according to a U.N. study, 4% of the 73,504 refugees in Mexico as of Dec. 31 had Haitian nationality. Of the 157,180 seeking asylum, 33% were Haitians, who had the lowest rate of acceptance for asylum in comparison to other, Spanish-speaking refugees.

Those who dare cross irregularly into the U.S. risk being quickly expelled under the Trump-era public health policy known as Title 42, leading to criticism of Biden, who advocates say has expelled over 25,000 Haitians back to a country riddled with violence since September and facing a humanitarian crisis.