The Summit of the Americas promotes an agreement to facilitate the return of irregular immigrants

More opportunities for legal immigration and in return, a commitment to return irregular immigrants to their countries of origin. The United States finally plans to capture in a common document a reality that has been experienced in the region in recent years. It is part of the content of the Los Angeles declaration on migration and protection that the leaders of the American countries will sign this Friday. Although the host country assures that it does not want to stop immigration, what it does intend with the declaration it has promoted is to establish new rules of the game based on what it calls “shared responsibility”, which is a two-sided coin. The rest of the nations, which have ceased to be just expellers to also become countries of destination for immigrants, agree with this new regional system.

The first commitment is to promote the development of the countries of origin to discourage migration. Almost the entire agenda of the Summit of the Americas points, in one way or another, in that direction. Promote a quality democracy, thus avoiding refugees and exiles; economic cooperation to improve opportunities in the poorest countries; private investment and financing from multilateral organizations, improvement of health systems; fight against climate change and a whole series of proposals so that there are fewer people willing to emigrate.

It is, however, a long-term remedy. Meanwhile, to control migratory flows, what the Summit of the Americas foresees is, on the one hand, to facilitate legal emigration routes and, on the other, to stop illegal ones. “President Biden asks all the governments that are on the migratory routes to facilitate the processing of asylum in their countries, more effectively reinforcing their borders, carrying out controls and expelling those who do not meet the requirements for asylum” , explained a senior US government official.

This statement comes at a time when the Biden Administration itself is seeking to reinstate an asylum system destroyed in the four years of the Donald Trump administration. Washington announced in March an initiative to reduce a process that today takes about six months to several years. Other legal avenues for migration and reception of refugees will also be opened and they will commit to increasing the protection of these controlled immigrants.

The governments that sign the declaration should also follow in the footsteps of the United States and Canada, which have expanded temporary worker programs to deal with labor shortages, which is “driving up prices,” according to the high position. “This is a win-win [en inglés, acuerdo beneficioso para ambas partes] for the countries of North America”, the official added.

Almost a month ago, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor announced 35,000 such visas for the second half of the year. 23,500 were for migrants who had already joined the program, but the remaining 11,500 were reserved for citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti, countries that have increased their expulsion of migrants to the north.

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There will also be specific commitments to welcome refugees. Canada and Spain are among those negotiating these agreements. The United States also wants to support the countries of the region that host refugees so that the population settles and second-round immigration is reduced, as is happening with numerous Venezuelan refugees in Colombia who seek to emigrate to the United States.

A caravan of thousands of emigrants bound for the United States, many of them Venezuelans, passing through the Mexican state of Chiapas.
A caravan of thousands of emigrants bound for the United States, many of them Venezuelans, passing through the Mexican state of Chiapas.PEDRO PARDO (AFP)

“The Los Angeles declaration demonstrates the commitment of the entire region to collectively step forward to face the challenges posed by historic levels of migration,” explained a senior US official. At the same time, the declaration aims to lay the foundations to curb irregular immigration and “disrupt and dismantle people smuggling networks throughout Latin America.”

As Juan González, President Joe Biden’s main adviser for Latin America, advanced in an interview with EL PAÍS, it is about reinforcing the laws so that there is “an organized and dignified way” to return to their countries of origin “the people who they are migrating irregularly and have no credible asylum claim.”

Asked about the way in which it will be guaranteed that the countries comply with these commitments to receive refugees, temporary immigration and, in particular, the return of immigrants, the high official indicated, on the one hand, that the countries will assume some specific commitments this Friday and that, on the other hand, “this is only the beginning”. The United States will work with the countries that sign the declaration to develop and implement the content.

In the specific case of the United States, some regular immigration channels, such as family reunification, require legal coverage. “We would love for Congress to act on it. I think we see the need to expand the legal channels of migration. That would be good for our economy, good for the United States, but it would also have a direct impact on reducing irregular migration. We will do everything we can within our executive authority,” said the senior official, who has assured that the United States will not be the only country to announce this Friday ways to expand regular migration.

There will also be a specific initiative to support Haiti: “We recognize the need to legalize Haitian migrants (…) We will announce decisions to help the people in the face of the deteriorating security, humanitarian and security situation in the country.” In recent months, the presence of citizens of the Caribbean country on the border between Mexico and the United States has increased by hundreds. In fact, along with the pillars of economic development, promoting legal migration and reception channels, and rejecting and returning undocumented immigrants, there is a fourth pillar, which is the response to emergency situations.

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