Biden unveils migration plan at Americas summit

Leaders pose for a family photo during the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, June 10, 2022.
(CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

LOS ANGELES – US President Joe Biden and fellow leaders from the Western Hemisphere on Friday rolled out a new set of measures to confront the regional migration crisis, seeking to salvage an Americas summit roiled by division.

Biden's aides had touted the migration declaration as a centerpiece of the US-hosted Summit of the Americas, and 20 countries joined him for a ceremonial unveiling of the plan – though several others stayed away.

Tho measures include the United States and Canada committing to take in more guest laborers, providing pathways for people from poorer countries to work in richer ones, and other countries agreeing to greater protections for migrants

Capping the summit's final day, the White House promoted a series of migrant programs agreed by countries across the hemisphere and Spain, attending as an observer, which pledged a more cooperative approach. But some policy analysts are skeptical that the pledges are meaningful enough to make a significant difference.

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Those measures include the United States and Canada committing to take in more guest laborers, providing pathways for people from poorer countries to work in richer ones, and other countries agreeing to greater protections for migrants. Mexico also agreed to accept more Central American workers, according to a White House statement.

The flags of 20 countries, several fewer than the number attending the summit in all, festooned the stage where Biden led the rollout. But even that number was only achieved after days of US pressure.

It was another sign of tensions that have marred the summit, undermining Biden's efforts to reassert US leadership.

The Biden administration, facing a record flow of illegal migrants at its southern border, pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Venezuelan migrants across the region, renewed processing of family-based visas for Cubans and Haitians and eased the hiring of Central American workers. 

The announcements are part of a US-led pact dubbed the "Los Angeles Declaration" and aimed at spreading responsibility across the region to contain the migration problem.

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The plan culminates a summit designed to re-establish US influence among its southern neighbors, including a new economic partnership that appears to be a work in progress.

But at the summit's opening on Thursday, leaders from Argentina and tiny Belize rebuked Biden face-to-face over the guest list, underscoring the challenge the global superpower faces in restoring its influence among poorer neighbors.

On Friday, Chile, Bolivia, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda joined the criticism, though Biden was not present. "We can't have exclusions," said new Chilean leftist President Gabriel Boric.

The summit sessions this week regularly rang out to US composer's John Philip Sousa's "The Liberty Bell" march, a tune popularized by the classic British comedy show "Monty Python's Flying Circus."