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On Friday, President Biden, along with a number of Western Hemisphere leaders, unveiled a new declaration on migration that he said would transform the regional approach to migration, as he condemned “illegal migration — just as the administration struggles to contain an out-of-control crisis on the southern border.
“With this declaration, we are 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 pledges that recognize the challenges we all share and the responsibility that impacts all of our nations, and will take all of our nations,” he said.
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Biden said the declaration is based on four pillars: “First, stability and assistance, ensuring that communities that host refugees can afford to care for them, educate them in their education, care medical conditions, housing and employment opportunities”.
“Second, to increase pathways for legal migration across the region, as well as protections for refugees. Third, to work together and implement a more humane and coordinated border management system. And finally, to ensure that we work together to respond to emergencies,” he said.
“We know that safe, orderly, and legal migration is good for all our economies. But we must put an end to unsafe and illegal migration routes and dangerous pathways. Illegal migration is not acceptable, and we will secure our borders, including through innovative and coordinated actions with our regional partners.
As part of the rollout, the Biden administration earlier in the day announced a series of new migration-related commitments and spending.
According to the White House, the United States will offer 22,500 H-2B non-farm visas to Central America and Haiti, commit to resettling 20,000 refugees from the Americas in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 (a threefold increase from compared to this year), increase reunification programs for Cubans and Haitians, provide an additional $25 million for a migration crisis response program, and commit $314 million in funding through the Department of and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for humanitarian and development assistance for refugees and vulnerable migrants across the hemisphere.
The United States will also increase the resettlement of Haitian migrants and roll out a new “Fair Hiring Practices Guide” for temporary migrant workers, which will be done in cooperation with major companies like Walmart. In addition, the United States announces an undercover operation to disrupt human trafficking in the region.
Other countries have also signed pledges on migration. Mexico expands migration programs and launches new temporary work program, Canada announces expansion of its acceptance of agricultural workers and funding for root cause investments. Guatemala, Ecuador and Belize are the other countries that have made commitments under the pact.
“This is just the start,” Biden said. Much remains to be done to state the obvious. Each country must work together to maintain a humane and orderly immigration process; invest in securing borders, screening and registering migrants entering their country and repatriating those who do not qualify to stay”.
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U.S. officials have stressed that the migrant crisis is a regional problem, even as many migrants in the hemisphere cross multiple countries in an attempt to reach the United States 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 number could rise over the summer months.
The Biden administration rolled back a number of Trump-era border policies and recently tried to end deportations under the Title 42 public health order — which has been used since March 2020 by both administrations to deport a majority of migrants due to COVID -19. However, that effort was thwarted by a federal judge, who ordered the administration to keep the policy in place.
The Biden administration has focused its response on trying to tackle what it sees as the “root causes” of the problem, including violence, poverty and climate change – and rallied private sector investment in the region.
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Vice President Kamala Harris has led this effort since last year, and this week at the Summit announced that her “Call to Action” has resulted in approximately $3.2 billion in private sector investment.
Harris told attendees there were three principles guiding his outlook.
“First of all, I 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 pray and the community they’ve always known. “, she added. said. “And so when they do, it’s usually for one of two reasons: they’re fleeing evil, or staying means they just can’t meet their basic needs or the needs of their family.”
Other principles are that governments cannot act alone and that any strategy must prioritize fighting corruption, reducing violence, empowering women and promoting the rule of law. .
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“So these are the guiding principles that inform our root cause strategy. And that strategy is aligned with the importance that many leaders here know and live – the importance of paying attention to good ROI, consistency and predictability, a skilled workforce and reliable infrastructure,” she said.
However, Harris was not present when the migration pact was unveiled. Instead, she traveled to South Carolina for a fundraiser for Democrats in the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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