Biden, other leaders sign migration agreement to cap Summit of the Americas

Biden, other leaders sign migration agreement to cap Summit of the Americas

LOS ANGELES — President Biden and Summit of the Americas leaders pledged Friday to stiffen their borders and improve their asylum systems in an attempt to slow the unprecedented pace of illegal immigration across the hemisphere.

The agreement is the biggest concrete achievement of the summit for Mr. Biden, who hosted the multiday event marked by notable absences and an awkward meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

The U.S. will agree to expand access to its guest-worker programs for other countries in the hemisphere to relieve some of the incentives for migrating. Mr. Biden will promise to take more refugees, and American taxpayers will also pony up assistance for other countries who are willing to do more to screen and keep refugees inside their borders, rather than see them rush north to the U.S.

“When migrants arrive on their doorstep they can provide a place to stay, make sure migrants can see a doctor, find opportunities to work so they don’t have to undertake the dangerous journey north,” Mr. Biden said from a crowded summit stage that included more than a dozen leaders.

Mr. Biden will also commit to what officials called an “unprecedented-in-scale campaign” to target the smuggling networks that funnel people north.

Other nations that sign the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection will agree to do more to interdict those entering their countries, screen them, and then deport them if they don’t qualify for protection or status in those other countries.

The goal is to disrupt the chain of illegal economic or family reunification migration that’s seen record numbers of people leave their countries and travel across Central America and Mexico to reach the U.S.

The leaders of key countries along the migration route were absent from the summit. The presidents of Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras stayed home.

American officials said they believe some of those countries will offer support for the declaration’s principles.

A senior administration official said other countries are also expected to detail commitments to support “middle-income” nations that are bearing the brunt of major migration shifts. Countries like Panama and Costa Rica have massive refugee populations right now, the official said.

“I hope more countries will see the potential of joining the Los Angeles declaration. I want to thank all my fellow leaders on this stage for committing to this historic new vision for this region,” Mr. Biden said.

The event and “family photo” following it allowed Mr. Biden to project himself as an influential host on the world stage amid political headwinds at home. He faces baby-formula shortages and economic inflation that reached a new 40-year high on Friday.

Asked if he was confident the summit went well, Mr. Biden said he is “always confident” but couldn’t speak for other leaders.
“You’ll have to ask them. Let’s just take the picture,” he told reporters.

Mr. Biden also hosted a working lunch with fellow leaders, allowing him to have frank conversations with heads of state without staff present.

Also Friday, Homeland Security announced it would reopen an Obama-era program that allowed Haitian citizens and green card holders to apply to bring their family members here on a special parole status.

That follows an announcement last month of a similar program for Cubans.

The department also highlighted its role in the anti-smuggling operation the White House announced. Homeland Security said it is already working to disrupt smugglers’ finances and to investigate and help the Justice Department prosecute the most prolific smugglers.

“If you prey on desperate and vulnerable migrants for profit, we are coming for you,” Mr. Biden said.

— Jeff Mordock reported from Los Angeles.