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President Biden on Friday, along with a number of Western Hemisphere leaders, unveiled a new migration declaration that he said would transform the regional approach to migration, as he condemned “unlawful migration” — just as the administration is scrambling to contain an out-of-control crisis at the southern border.
“With this declaration, we’re transforming our approach to managing migration in the Americas,” Biden said in a speech in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas, where the “Los Angeles Declaration” was unveiled.
“Each of us is signing up to commitments that recognizes the challenges we all share and the responsibility that impacts on all of our nations, and that will take all of our nations,” he said.
Biden said the declaration is based on four pillars: “First, stability and assistance, making sure communities that are welcoming refugees can afford to care for them, to educate them in their education, medical care, shelter and job opportunities.”
“Second, increasing pathways for legal migration throughout the region, as well as protections for refugees. Third, working together and implementing a more humane and coordinated border management system. And finally, making sure we’re working together to respond to emergencies,” he said.
“We know that safe, orderly and legal migration is good for all our economies. But we need to halt the dangerous and unlawful ways people are migrating and the dangerous ways. Unlawful migration is not acceptable, and we’ll secure our borders, including through innovative, coordinated actions with our regional partners.
As part of the rollout, the Biden administration had earlier in the day announced a slew of new migration-related commitments and spending.
According to the White House, The U.S. will offer 22,500 H-2B non-agricultural visas to Central America and Haiti, commit to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas in FY 2023 and 2024 (a three-fold increase from this year), increase reunification programs for Cubans and Haitians, provide an additional $25 million for a crisis response program on migration and commit to a $314 million in funding via the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for humanitarian and development assistance for refugees and vulnerable migrants across the hemisphere.
The U.S. will also increase the resettlement of Haitian migrants, and roll out a new “Fair Recruitment Practices Guidance” for temporary migrant workers, which will be done in cooperation with major corporations like Walmart. Separately, the U.S. is announcing a sting operation to disrupt human smuggling in the region.
Other countries have signed on to commitments in regards to migration as well. Mexico is expanding its migration programs and launching a new temporary labor program, Canada is announcing an expansion of its acceptance of agricultural workers and funding in root-cause related investments. Guatemala, Ecuador and Belize are the other countries that have made commitments as part of the pact.
“This is just a start,” Biden said. There’s much more work remains to state the obvious. Every country needs to work together to maintain a humane, orderly immigration process; to invest in securing the borders, screening and registering migrants who enter their countries and repatriating those who do not qualify to remain.”
U.S. officials have stressed that the migrant crisis is a regional problem, even as many migrants in the Hemisphere cross through multiple countries to try to gain access to the U.S. with an asylum claim. There have been historic numbers at the border, with more than 234,000 migrant encounters in April, and officials have warned that the number could rise over the summer months.
The Biden administration has rolled back a number of Trump-era border policies and has recently been attempting to end expulsions under the Title 42 public health order — which has been used since March 2020 by both administrations to expel a majority of migrants due to COVID-19. However, that effort has been thwarted by a federal judge, which has ordered the administration to keep the policy in place.
The Biden administration has focused its response on attempting to address what it believes are the “root causes” of the matter, including violence, poverty and climate change — and has been rallying private sector investment into the region.
Vice President Kamala Harris has spearheaded that effort since last year, and this week at the Summit announced that her “Call to Action” had resulted in approximately $3.2 billion in investment from the private sector.
Harris told attendees that there are three principles guiding her outlooks.
“First, I do believe most people don’t want to leave home. They don’t want to leave their grandmother. They don’t want to leave the place where they worship and the community that they’ve always known,” she said. “And so, when they do, it is usually for one of two reasons: They are fleeing harm, or to stay means they simply cannot satisfy their basic needs or the needs of their family.”
The other principles are that governments cannot act alone, and that any strategy must prioritize combating corruption, reducing violence, empowering women and promoting the rule of law.
“So, these are the guiding principles that inform our Root Causes Strategy. And this strategy is aligned with the importance that many of the leaders here know and live — the importance of paying attention to a good return on investment, consistency and predictability, a skilled workforce, and a reliable infrastructure,” she said.
However, Harris was not be in attendance when the migration compact is unveiled. Instead, she traveled to South Carolina for a fundraiser for state Democrats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.