Biden, leaders strike pact on migration despite dip in attendance

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Joe Biden and other Western Hemisphere leaders are expected to announce on Friday what is billed as a roadmap for countries to welcome large numbers of migrants and refugees.

‘The Los Angeles Declaration’ is perhaps the greatest achievement of the Summit of the Americas, which was undermined by differences over Biden’s invite list. The leaders of Mexico and several Central American countries sent senior diplomats instead after the United States ruled out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

A set of principles to be announced on the final day of the summit on Friday include legal pathways to enter countries, support for communities most affected by migration, humane border management and coordinated emergency responses, according to a senior US official who briefed reporters ahead of an official announcement. .

It is a plan already followed to a large extent by Colombia and Ecuador, whose right-wing leaders were warmly welcomed at the summit for taking in many of the 6 million people who have left Venezuela. during the last years.

President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador last week announced temporary status for Venezuelans in his country, estimated at around 500,000. He told a roundtable on Tuesday that his country was repaying Spain’s generosity and of the United States for taking in large numbers of Ecuadorians who fled more than two decades ago.

Colombian President Ivan Duque received a standing ovation during a Thursday appearance for describing how his government has granted temporary status to 1 million Venezuelans over the past 14 months and is processing another 800,000 applications.

“We did it out of conviction,” Duque told The Associated Press, saying he could not be indifferent to Venezuelans who lost their homes and livelihoods and were willing to suffer approval ratings. .

“They were invisible (in Colombia),” he said. “They couldn’t open bank accounts, they couldn’t work, they couldn’t get health care. They were practically a community with no future.

Although the measures were not universally popular, Venezuelans assimilated without major backlash.

“The two most dangerous phenomena are xenophobia and indifference, and I believe we have managed to overcome both (in Colombia),” Duque said.

The United States has been the most popular destination for asylum seekers since 2017, posing a challenge that has baffled Biden and his immediate predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

But the United States is far from alone. Colombia and neighboring South American countries are hosting millions of people who have fled Venezuela. Mexico filed more than 130,000 asylum applications last year, many of them Haitians, triple the number in 2020. Many Nicaraguans are fleeing to Costa Rica, while displaced Venezuelans make up about a sixth of the population of little Aruba.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Thursday that the summit declaration recognized the regional dimensions of migration.

“It’s a hemispheric challenge,” he said in an interview, citing Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica for hosting large numbers of migrants.

The responses from Colombia and Ecuador cannot be replicated, said José Samaniego, the UN refugee agency’s regional director for the Americas. Each country is different and migration from Central America is more complicated than that from Venezuela.

“You don’t want to copy and paste,” he said, “but there are good practices.”

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