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Biden, others join migration pact

U.S. commits $314M to aid other countries with refugees by ELLIOT SPAGAT and CHRIS MEGERIAN The Associated Press | June 11, 2022 at 4:21 a.m.
President Joe Biden (center) speaks during a meeting on migration at the Summit of the Americas Friday in Los Angeles. More photos at arkansasonline.com/611americas/. (AP/Evan Vucci)


LOS ANGELES -- President Joe Biden and other Western Hemisphere leaders announced Friday what is being billed as a road map for countries to host large numbers of migrants and refugees.

"The Los Angeles Declaration" is perhaps the biggest achievement of the Summit of the Americas. A set of principles announced on the summit's final day includes legal pathways to enter countries, aid to communities most affected by migration, humane border management and coordinated emergency responses.

"Each of us is signing up to commitments that recognize the challenges that we all share," Biden said on a podium with flags for the 20 countries that joined the accord extending from Chile in the south to Canada in the north.

"This is just a start," Biden said, expressing hope that more countries join. "Much more work remains, to state the obvious."

The White House highlighted measures that were recently announced and some new commitments. Costa Rica will extend protections for Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who arrived before March 2020. Mexico will add temporary worker visas for up to 20,000 Guatemalans a year.

The United States is committing $314 million to assist countries hosting refugees and migrants, and is resuming or expanding efforts to reunite Haitian and Cuban families. Belize will "regularize" Central American and Caribbean migrants in the country.

It is a blueprint already being followed to a large extent by Colombia and Ecuador, whose leaders were salutedat the summit for giving temporary legal status to many of the 6 million people who have left Venezuela in recent years.

President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador last week announced temporary status for Venezuelans in his country, estimated to be around 500,000. He said at a panel discussion Tuesday that Venezuela was paying back the generosity of Spain and the United States for welcoming large numbers of Ecuadorians who fled more than two decades ago.

Lasso was the only other leader to speak at a brief ceremony Friday. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil arrived late.

"I would like to highlight that migration is a significant phenomenon and it demands joint actions under the principle of shared responsibility and differentiated between countries of the region," Lasso said.

Colombian President Ivan Duque, who stood next to Biden at the ceremony, got standing ovations at an appearance Thursday for describing how his government has granted temporary status to 1 million Venezuelans in the past 14 months and is processing another 800,000 applications.

"We did it out of conviction," Duque told The Associated Press, saying he couldn't be indifferent to Venezuelans who lost their homes and livelihoods and was prepared to suffer in approval ratings.

While the measures are not universally popular -- Duque's vice president, Marta Lucia Ramirez, has said Colombia has reached its limit and Venezuelans have generally assimilated without major backlash.

"The two most dangerous phenomena are xenophobia and indifference, and I believe we have managed to conquer both [in Colombia]," Duque said.

The United States has been the most popular destination for asylum-seekers since 2017, posing a challenge that has stumped Biden and his immediate predecessors, Donald Trump and Barack Obama. But the U.S. is far from alone.

Colombia and neighboring South American countries host millions of people who have fled Venezuela. Mexico fielded more than 130,000 asylum applications last year, many of them Haitians, which was triple from 2020. Many Nicaraguans escape to Costa Rica, while displaced Venezuelans account for about one-sixth the population of Aruba.

Key countries that send or receive migrants, or serve as transit corridors joined the agreement: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru and the United States. Also participating are Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Paraguay and Uruguay.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Thursday that the summit declaration acknowledged migration's regional dimensions. He and other U.S. officials applauded efforts of Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama, among others, for accepting migrants and refugees, and noted that the U.S. has granted refuge from natural disasters and civil strife to hundreds of thousands under Temporary Protected Status.

The absence of the presidents of Mexico, northern Central America and other counties deprived Biden of symbolic heft.

Information for this article was contributed by Astrid Suarez and Gonzalo Solano of The Associated Press.



 Gallery: Summit of the Americas, June 10



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