Migrant pact at fractious Americas summit

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

US President Joe Biden and fellow regional leaders have rolled out a new set of measures to confront the regional migration crisis, seeking to salvage an Americas summit roiled by division.

Biden's aides had touted the migration declaration as a centerpiece of the US-hosted Summit of the Americas, and 20 countries joined him for a ceremonial unveiling of the plan - though several others stayed away.

Capping the summit's final day, the White House promoted a series of migrant programs agreed by countries across the hemisphere and Spain, attending as an observer, which pledged a more co-operative approach.

Some analysts are sceptical the pledges are meaningful enough to make a significant difference.

Measures include the US and Canada taking in more guest labourers, providing pathways for people from poorer countries to work in richer ones, and offering greater protections for migrants.

"We're transforming our approach to manage migration in the Americas," Biden said.

"Each of us is signing up to commitments that recognise the challenges we all share."

The flags of 20 countries, several fewer than the number attending the summit, festooned the stage where Biden led the rollout. But even that number of attendees was only achieved after days of US pressure and cajoling.

It was another sign of tensions that have marred the summit, undermining the Biden administration's efforts to reassert US leadership and counter China's growing economic footprint in the region.

That message was clouded by a partial boycott of the summit by leaders, including Mexico's president, to protest Washington's exclusion of leftist US antagonists Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

The summit's line-up was thinned down to 21 heads of state and government.

The Biden administration, facing a record flow of illegal migrants at its southern border, pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Venezuelan migrants across the region, renewed processing of family based visas for Cubans and Haitians, and eased the hiring of Central American workers.

The announcements are part of a US-led pact dubbed the Los Angeles Declaration and aimed at creating incentives for countries taking in large numbers of migrants and spreading responsibility across the region.

The plan culminates a summit hosted by Biden that was designed to re-establish US influence among its southern neighbours, including a new economic partnership that appears to be a work in progress.

But at the summit's opening on Thursday, leaders from Argentina and tiny Belize rebuked Biden face-to-face over the guest list, underscoring the challenge the global superpower faces.

On Friday, Chile, Bolivia, the Bahamas, St Lucia, Barbados, and Antigua and Barbuda joined the criticism, though Biden was not present.

"We can't have exclusions," said new Chilean leftist President Gabriel Boric.

Biden said "safe, orderly, legal migration is good for all our economies ... unlawful migration is not acceptable."

Eric Olson, director of policy and strategic initiatives at the Seattle International Foundation, called the declaration a "useful framework for working on solutions" but said it would likely have limited near-term effects because it is non-binding.

Mexico, whose long border with the United States is the main point of irregular migration - backed the declaration, despite President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's no-show.

The absence from the summit of the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - the Northern Triangle region from which many migrants come - has raised doubts how effective the pledges will be.

The declaration encompasses commitments by an array of countries, including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Belize and Ecuador.

There was no mention, however, of any pledges by Brazil, Latin America's most populous nation.

Curbing irregular migration is a top priority for Biden as the number of attempted illegal border crossings has risen to record highs.

Republicans, who hope to regain control of Congress in November elections, have pilloried the Democratic president for reversing the restrictive immigration policies of predecessor Donald Trump.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting