The Ninth Summit of the Americas, hosted by Joe Biden in Los Angeles from June 6 to 10, was overshadowed by the U.S. president’s decision not to invite the presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The reason for this was anti-democratic leadership and disrespect for human rights in those countries. But you can question this exclusion if you believe that the most important democratic principles include freedom of association, speech and inclusivity.
In his remarks at the opening meeting of the summit, Biden emphasized on several occasions the importance of co-operation and co-operation between the North, Central and South America when tackling regional issues, such as economic, climate and migration crises, among others. But the decision to exclude the three countries led to several other leaders boycotting the event in solidarity. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), as well as the presidents of El Salvador (Nayib Bukele), Honduras (Xiomara Castro), and Guatemala (Alejandro Giammattei), also skipped the event.
Mexico is an interesting case. After a shaky start, AMLO managed to build a friendly relationship with Donald Trump during his time in the White House. But he has not yet entered into such an easy relationship with Biden. It may seem counter-intuitive when you consider that although Trump has had a migration policy with no tolerance, Biden wants to introduce a more humane immigration system.
AMLO’s respect for Trump was reflected by Latino voters in the 2020 presidential election in which he won the border state of Texas and in Florida, the US states with the high population of Latinos, mainly Mexican-American and Cuban and Venezuelan-American, respectively. .
New economic plan
Biden used the summit to launch a new economic partnership plan, “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”. This, he said, will aim to grow economies from the bottom up: developing innovation, strengthening supply chains and aiming to prioritize the growth of the green economy, with jobs in clean energy production and the protection of biodiversity.
Biden also announced his plans to fight corruption in the region and promote the rule of law, by forging a partnership with Latin American countries to fight the powerful transnational criminal organizations, drug smugglers and the illegal arms trade. Collaboration will also aim to improve healthcare provision across the region and increase food production. The idea, in a nutshell, is to improve the quality of life and security in Latin America to the extent that illegal migration to America would decrease as people enjoy better conditions in their own countries.
Experts are divided
At face value, so far, so positive. But the director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University in Texas, Tony Payan, believes the plans outlined at the summit have little chance of having the desired impact, especially with regard to migration. He believes the western hemisphere is too politically divided and chaotic to make any real progress in these areas. Payan told me, “For now, no matter how well-intentioned the statements are, their words will disappear with little to no accomplishments.”
On the other hand, the president of the Migration Policy Institute, Andrew Selee, believes that a declaration signed by 20 nations at the end of the summit, the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection is a “significant step forward in the creating a common language and a coherent set of ideas for more collaborative management of migration movements across the Americas ”.
Will it work?
The purpose of the Los Angeles Declaration is to control and regulate an unauthorized migration across the American continent through shared responsibility between all states. It proposes some concrete criteria as targets for the program. For example, the US will invest US $ 314 million (£ 260 million) in humanitarian aid for vulnerable refugees and migrants. In addition, the US has undertaken to accept a further 20,000 refugees in the next two years. An additional US $ 65 million will be used to promote temporary work among Haitian and Central American temporary workers.
The Los Angeles Declaration speaks not only about possible solutions for migration to the US, but also between Latin American countries. Mexico, which was attended by Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, has promised to include 20,000 refugees from Central America and Haiti in its labor market. By the end of August 2022, Colombia will grant regulatory permits to 1.5 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
But the statement also has its limitations. The executive director of the pro-migrant foundation America Without Walls (America Without Walls), Bernardo Méndez-Lugo, told me he thinks US money and increased work visas will simply not be enough for millions of needy migrants who are taking the illegal path to a better life. He also pointed out that the agreement does not specify how the US will legalize the status of the 5 million irregular Mexican migrants or the 2 million irregular migrants from Central American countries already in the US. Nothing has been determined to solve the status of the 600,000 “dreamers” – the children of illegal migrants who grew up in the US or the hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans with temporary protected status in the US.
Thus, while the declaration is undoubtedly a stepping stone to resolving the migration crisis in the Americas, the commitment will have to be followed up with concrete actions from across the region. It will only bear fruit if all countries are united. And of course, the absence of significant role players in this issue from the summit is not a good sign that the Americas are on the same page when it comes to resolving the irregular migration crisis.