The measures announced by the administration on April 27, 2023 can be summarized into the following points:
- With the end of Title 42, Title 8 will be implemented once again with additional requirements and hurdles, such as the presumption of ineligibility for asylum for those persons that do not fulfill a number of requirements including:
- Obtaining an appointment to cross the border with the CBP One App;
- Applying for and being denied asylum in a third country en route to the U.S.;
- There are applicable exceptions such as medical emergencies, victims of trafficking, among others.
- The end of Title 42 will result in an expansion of deportations, including an increase in the number of flights of persons with removal orders under expedited removal procedures, as well as a bar to re-enter the U.S. for 5 years.
- The creation of regional processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia in collaboration with UN agencies (UNHCR and IOM) along with the presence of U.S. officials. These centers should provide information and screening for individuals in need of international protection, including legal pathways to the U.S., Canada or Spain.
- Persons from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia with approved family-based petitions will be paroled to the U.S., without the need to request a consular visa.
- The parole program for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans will continue with a monthly cap of 30,000 persons.
- The annual refugee admissions quota from Latin America and the Caribbean will be doubled to 30,000 persons.
- Other measures include anti-smuggling efforts in the Darien region, capacity building to respond to the increase in number of border crossings after the end of Title 42, and greater use of the Alternatives to Detention Program (ATD).
- This announcement intends to appease anti-immigrant and xenophobic calls for greater enforcement and deterrence measures while also responding to those sectors who understand the plight of individuals seeking international protection.
- These measures continue to perpetuate toxic narratives about migrants and migration. The Administration should not punish those who are forced to migrate and should instead lead by acknowledging the contributions that immigrants make to the U.S. every day and create real pathways for those who are seeking a safe and dignified life in the U.S.
- The misconception that migrants are harmful to the country continues to be a guiding criterion for the immigration measures adopted by U.S. governments over the last four decades, including those announced on April 27.
- The punitive logic against people who migrate in an unauthorized manner is also still in force, when the underlying problem is that there are NO realistic avenues for authorized migration.
- The migrant workforce is crucial to the wellbeing of the U.S. economy. The current need for workers in the U.S. has been left out of these policies that are centered on enforcement.
- The announced measures are intended to restrict access to existing humanitarian protection measures. However, humanitarian protection legislation is outdated. Existing laws are mostly based on criteria established in the middle of the last century, of little relevance to those forced to flee their countries today.
- These announcements represent a step further in the process of border externalization. The U.S. is imposing its will on Latin American countries, despite the fact that the leadership of those countries understands the failure of the containment approach that prevails today.
Regional Processing Centers
- The regional processing centers confirm the externalization of U.S. immigration enforcement. These processing centers should not be converted into refugee camps or places where individual’s mobility is restricted.
- There is little information about the functioning of those processing centers, except for the presence of UN agencies. They could be opened in other countries. None of them are operating at this time.
- It was announced that apps will be used to request appointments. Another measure that widens the digital divide and impacts the most vulnerable.
- International organizations will play an important role in upholding the human rights of those individuals seeking information and options.
- Immigrant led organizations will monitor closely the operation of these processing centers.
False Hopes Regarding the Expansion of Legal Pathways
- In reality, legal pathways are not truly being expanded. The parole program continues to be a significant challenge for many individuals who are struggling to find sponsors and obtain travel documents. In addition, the U.S. refugee program has been very limited in the Americas.
- The parole program set in place in January of 2023 for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans faces many challenges and leaves out a considerable number of vulnerable persons unable to find sponsors in the U.S. or whose governments deny them or destroy their travel documents. It also lacks long-term sustainable solutions considering that those within the program are paroled into the U.S. for only two years, a period in which they must apply for asylum or find other pathways if they wish to remain in the U.S.
- In January 2023, 11,673 persons from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela were paroled in the U.S. In February 2022, the number of persons paroled increased to 22,755. In March 2023, 27,783 persons were paroled into the U.S., almost reaching the 30,000 cap.
- It is fundamental to address the language and sponsor obstacles so that parole applications can be processed in an orderly and timely fashion.
- In the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2023, only 2,826 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean have been admitted to the U.S., far from the previous 15,000 annual cap. In Fiscal Year 2022, the total number of admitted refugees from that region was 2,485.
- The offer of parole for people who already have approved permanent residence visas from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is a positive measure. However, the challenge is to seek changes in the law to ensure expedited processing of permanent residence visas.
- For years, the U.S. government has separated families and will continue to do so after Title 42 expires. The streamlined parole processing of pre-approved family-based petitions for persons from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia is a positive measure, but it does not come close to repairing the damage caused by years of policies that tragically separate thousands of families.
- The family-based petitions take at least one year. The parole program announced will eliminate the requirement to obtain a consular visa, which has become a lengthier process due to backlogs in processing interviews in U.S. Consulates in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- The specific exclusion of measures to facilitate the migration of Mexican nationals is a serious omission. Persons from Mexico continue to be the largest number of nationals seeking entry to the U.S. There is a pattern of exclusion and punishment that has primarily affected Mexican persons over the past several decades.
- The punishment to be imposed on persons who reoffend in unauthorized entry attempts reinforces the punitive logic of immigration law over the past decades.
- The potential denial of immigration relief for those already in U.S. territory opens the imminent possibility of a return to the policy of mass deportations of foreign nationals, especially Mexicans, that characterized the Obama administration.
Title 8 and its Increased Consequences at the Border
- The requirement to seek and be denied asylum in a country enroute to the U.S. to avoid triggering the presumption of ineligibility for asylum has been heavily criticized.
- The asylum systems in Mexico and Central America do not have the capacity to process an abrupt increase in petitions. It demands individuals and families to wait for months, even years, in conditions of extreme hardship, with the prospect of fulfilling a requirement to be able to seek international protection in the U.S. The asylum systems of Mexico and Latin America would need to be revamped and adequately funded.
- Additionally, conditions of safety and possibilities for economic integration make seeking asylum in those countries extremely difficult. It is a profoundly inhumane requirement.
- Relying on apps such as CBP One for obtaining appointments to cross into the U.S. is not a real solution. Beyond the many technical problems of such a platform, its design fails to consider the reality of knowledge gaps, including widening the digital divide and leaving out the most vulnerable people, while failing to address the language barriers faced by many indigenous and non-Spanish-speaking migrants.
- CBP One is not working well, the requirement to upload photos has made it very difficult, particularly for individuals with dark skin, that the app fails to recognize.
- Other options need to be created that are more attuned to the realities of Latin American and Caribbean communities forced to flee through the Central American – Mexico corridor.
- There is great disinformation and misinformation in border towns and on social media. The U.S. government must undertake consistent and robust efforts to inform individuals of its immigration and asylum policies. The frequent change in policies contribute to creating an environment of uncertainty, allowing criminal organizations to prey on the most vulnerable.
Root Causes of Migration
- The actions announced by the Biden administration neglect any efforts to address the root causes of migration. People are forced to leave their countries due to a combination of failed economic, social, public safety, cultural and economic policies that remain in place.
- Addressing the causal factors is a necessary policy approach that is underfunded and has been mostly focused so far on private investment, which in the best of cases is a tool of a sound policy. Adequate funding and sustained foreign policy approaches are crucial in order to change conditions in the countries of origin that many are fleeing from.
- What is needed is a new comprehensive development approach, which would certainly benefit from foreign direct investment, that aims to raise the living standards of the majority of people in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Deterrence and increased enforcement have proven to be failed approaches that do not change the multiple factors that force so many people to flee their countries and only result in pushing people into more dangerous routes that allow criminal organizations to thrive, resulting in the smuggling, trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping of migrants and others.