LOS ANGELES — The United States and Latin American countries on Friday plan to issue a joint declaration at the Americas summit, committing nations across the region to receive migrants and provide avenues for them to secure humanitarian protection and earn a living, according to U.S. officials who publicly spoke of the plans Thursday.
The American public and politicians have for decades focused on the large influx of migrants crossing the southern border into the United States, but ever-growing numbers of migrants have been pouring into countries across the Western Hemisphere.
“What we are seeing now is categorically distinct; from the southern tip of Chile to Canada, countries are affected by migration,” Clayton Alderman, director for regional migration and protection with the National Security Council, said in an interview after a panel in Los Angeles held alongside the official summit. He added that “everyone is feeling this in a way we have not before.”
Mr. Alderman and others described the planned directive as the “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” and it is expected to include Spain and Canada, in addition to the Latin American countries.
Even though Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not attend the summit, U.S. officials expressed confidence that Mexico — a key migrant transit country — would be a signatory.
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It will contain four pillars: stabilization and assistance to countries hosting migrants; new legal pathways for foreign workers; a joint approach to border protection, including tackling smuggling networks; and a coordinated response to historic flows across the border.
Anne Knapke, a senior official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that the declaration would expand labor programs to bring Central Americans to the United States as guest workers. Other countries, including Spain, are expected to make similar commitments.
About six million displaced Venezuelans have fled the economic and political turmoil of their home country in the last five years, to Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, among other countries. Central Americans facing gang violence and climate change have sought fresh starts in Mexico as well as the United States. Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans targeted by a crackdown on dissent have moved to Costa Rica, where about 10 percent of the population consists of refugees.
“It looks very different if you look at migration across the hemisphere rather than standing on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is what the United States has tried to do for the last 30 years,” said Dan Restrepo, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as adviser to President Barack Obama on Latin America.
“One of the important things at the Summit of the Americas this week is that it goes from looking at migration as something to control at the borders to something to manage throughout the hemisphere,” he said.
President Biden on Wednesday announced U.S. measures designed to help other nations. They include training medical professionals to improve health care in the Western Hemisphere, increasing food exports and attracting more private investment.
“These challenges affect all of us,” Mr. Biden said in his opening remarks. “All of our nations have a responsibility to step up and ease the pressure people are feeling today.”
Some 7,000 to 8,000 people each day are being encountered by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the southern border into the United States. They include record numbers of Cubans, where economic hardship has caused food shortages. Haitians fleeing lawlessness and lack of opportunity in their home country have also been arriving by land and sea.
But other countries in Latin America have also been experiencing a new wave of migration, and seeking answers.
Colombia is offering protected status and work permits to nearly two million Venezuelans. Lucas Gomez, the presidential envoy on migration in Colombia, said that it is time to discusspolicies designed to absorb migrants in host countries.
President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador said at a summit migration event that there needs to be a “recognition of a reality” that people are on the move and that “inclusive policies” must be promoted to ensure they find safe haven and can thrive outside their homelands.
“As a poor country, we are opening our doors,” he said, referring to more than 500,000 Venezuelans living in Ecuador, a country of 18.1 million people.