The Biden administration will roll out additional measures at Tuesday’s North American Leaders’ Summit in a desperate bid to stop migrants from crossing to the US southern border.
The latest round of efforts comes at a time of unprecedented movement in the Western Hemisphere and is designed to limit border crossings while making legal migration programs to the United States, Mexico and Canada more accessible, according to a senior administrative official.
But the success of these measures depends on migrants seeing these options as viable, especially when they are urgently fleeing deteriorating conditions in their home country.
During his presidency, Joe Biden has faced changing migration patterns that pose unique challenges to the administration and have strained federal and local resources. The issue has in turn increasingly become a political vulnerability for the administration — which has drawn heavy criticism from both Republicans and Democrats — and has been a key talking point with southern partners, primarily the Mexico.
Ahead of Tuesday’s summit, administration officials stressed the need for a regional response that shares responsibility for stemming the flow of migration between hemispheric partners. Tuesday’s announcement reflects this.
The Biden administration is expected to announce a virtual platform that will serve as a one-stop-shop for migrants to find information about the legal pathways they may be eligible for – whether in the United States, Mexico or Canada – and the openness of a new resource center in southern Mexico, the senior administration official said.
“The United States, Mexico, and Canada will all commit to enabling migrants to access our legal pathways through a single platform,” the senior administration official told CNN.
The virtual portal is in part an acknowledgment of the challenges migrants face trying to identify legal pathways to come to the United States and then navigating the often difficult and arduous process to do so. Instead, people often turn to smugglers, who spread misinformation about US policies, to travel north – a stumbling block for the Biden administration as it tries to discourage migrants from taking this route. road.
“This is an experiment,” the senior administration official said, citing recently launched programs for certain nationalities wishing to come to the United States.
Work is underway to build the portal and should materialize in the coming months.
“We are always in competition with smugglers, so we think it’s really important to have virtual platforms that are easy to access and user-friendly… but then centers where people can go and they know they can trust the people there and get accurate information and even get referred based on admissions and interviews,” the official added.
As part of this effort, the United States is also working with Mexico to open physical centers where migrants can obtain information on how to apply to migrate to the United States, similar to the Migrant Resource Center launched in Guatemala. A new center will be established in Tapachula, a town in southern Mexico that thousands of migrants pass through on their way to the US-Mexico border.
“We know this is a transit location so the center can help people stay where they are and apply from there,” the senior administration official said.
The announcement raises questions among immigration advocates who say its effectiveness is simply unknowable at this time.
“It’s a huge, huge open question,” said one immigration advocate, saying that while such an online platform could end up being helpful to thousands of asylum seekers, it could also prove “inaccessible” for many.
The portal is still under construction and may not be unveiled for several months, so details are still pending. Experts say an important factor is how the administration would determine whether a person is excluded from the right to seek asylum in the United States.
National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby said Monday that migration “will be one of the main topics of discussion” at this week’s summit.
“There is no doubt that migration will be one of the main topics of discussion here over the next 24 to 36 hours. Obviously, that’s on everyone’s mind here in the hemisphere,” Kirby told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Monday, citing a recent commitment by Mexico to accept thousands of non-Mexican migrants who cross the border illegally. border and do not apply to come to the United States through new programs.
Kirby said the leaders will also discuss the root causes of migration, praising Vice President Kamala Harris’ work on the issue while indicating the topic would be a major conversation starter throughout the trip.
Tuesday’s summit builds on last year’s meeting in Los Angeles, where countries in the Western Hemisphere pledged to uphold the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. The summit was a point of contention between the United States and Mexico when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador snubbed the rally due to disagreements over who was invited. Mexican officials still attended the summit.
The North American Leaders’ Summit marks the sixth anniversary of this declaration.
“We have a very ambitious agenda and that’s why the United States has so many commitments on the table initially and we continue to push other countries,” the senior administration official said, noting that the challenge will not be solved overnight.