The United States is quietly pressuring Mexico to take in more immigrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela subject to an expulsion order by COVID-19, which the White House has been trying to publicly eliminate, three Mexican and seven American officials said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns about the growing number of migrant crossings from the three countries during a visit to Mexico City on Monday, they told Reuters two US and two Mexican officials. But the government of the Latin American nation has not promised specific action.
A US official said trying to convince Mexico to take in immigrants is “an uphill battle.” All sources requested anonymity because internal government matters were discussed.
Mexico already accepts the return from the United States of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. So far this fiscal year, some 299,000 people from those three nations have been expelled from US territory, compared to some 9,000 returnees from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The pressures from the United States on Mexico over these three countries in particular illustrate the deep concern of the Democratic government of President Joe Biden about border crossings.
Most migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela who cross over to the United States are allowed to stay in the country to file asylum claims, as they are difficult to deport due to subdued diplomatic relations with their governments.
Mexico’s foreign ministry declined to comment, while the US Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the White House did not respond to inquiries from Reuters.
U.S. border agents have recorded a record 1.8 million immigrant arrests so far in fiscal year 2022, with many attempting to cross multiple times, creating humanitarian challenges and political responsibilities for Biden ahead of the midterm elections. November 8 period.
Of those arrests on the southwest border, nearly a quarter of the migrants came from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, up from 8% in 2021 and 3% in 2020. Most were allowed into the United States for further proceedings. of migration.
The Biden Administration has sought to end the order for the covid, known as Title 42. Issued in early 2020 during the administration of former Republican president Donald Trump, the rule allows border authorities to quickly expel undocumented immigrants to Mexico or other countries without the possibility of seeking asylum from Washington .
A Trump-appointed federal judge in Louisiana blocked the administration from closing the order earlier this year, even as US health officials said it was no longer needed as a form of protection against COVID-19.
But behind closed doors, some US officials believe such removals could serve as a way to deter crossers, one of the sources said, even as it contradicts the Democratic Party’s friendlier stance toward immigrants.
Activists and many Democrats are fiercely opposed to Title 42, saying it has exposed migrants to dangerous conditions in Mexico.
“I think this really betrays their commitments to refugee protection,” said Robyn Barnard, deputy director of refugee advocacy at the New York-based organization Human Rights First.
Two Mexican officials told Reuters the nation does not want to receive Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans expelled from the United States because those countries are also reluctant to accept deportation flights from Mexico.
Instead, Mexico aims to raise internal migrant flights from its northern border to its southern border to ease pressures in the cross-border area, one of the officials said.
Mexico would like to see Washington relax economic sanctions against Venezuela to help stem the exodus from the South American country and make it easier for migrants to work legally in the United States, two Mexican officials said.
Meanwhile, US border agents in El Paso, Texas, say they have been forced to release hundreds of migrants spotted near city shelters and bus stations to reduce overcrowding at their facilities.
Many of the Venezuelans who arrive do not have relatives or support groups, which puts more pressure on government and aid agencies, said Mario D’Agostino, an El Paso municipal official.
put pressure on other nations
The US government is also exploring ways to shift the responsibility to other nations beyond Mexico, the sources said.
For example, the White House wants Panama to accept deported Venezuelans if they passed through the Central American nation on their way to the United States, two of the US officials said.
About 70,000 Venezuelans entered Panama from its border with Colombia this year through August, compared to 1,150 in the same period last year, according to official data.
Panamanian government officials did not respond to a request for comment.
In another matter, the Biden administration was sending a small number of Venezuelans to the Dominican Republic on commercial flights, two of the US officials said, a practice dating from the Trump administration.
However, the program was halted after a rejection earlier this year from the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, according to one of the US officials and another source close to the matter. In February, Menendez called the deportation of migrants fleeing Venezuela’s “cruel regime” “extremely disturbing.”
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