Exclusive: Biden urges Mexico to take migrants under COVID eviction order he promised to end

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, Sep 13 (Reuters) – As border crossings reach record highs, US President Joe Biden’s administration quietly slams Mexico under a COVID-19 evacuation order for more migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The White House has been pressing to acknowledge that seven American and three Mexican officials have publicly sought to end.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns about a rising number of crossings by migrants from three countries during a visit to Mexico City on Monday, two American and two Mexican officials told Reuters, but Mexico promised no specific action. .

A US official said trying to persuade Mexico to agree is “an uphill battle”.

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All sources to discuss internal government matters requested anonymity.

Mexico already accepts the US return of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. So far this fiscal year, about 299,000 people from those countries have been expelled at the border, compared to about 9,000 returnees from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The US effort to pressure Mexico on these three particular nationalities reflects the depth of concern within Biden’s Democratic administration about their cross-border. Most expatriates from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela who enter the United States are allowed to stay to pursue asylum claims, as they are difficult to deport because of frosty diplomatic relations with their governments.

Mexico’s foreign ministry declined to comment. A spokesman for the White House National Security Council declined to discuss “diplomatic talks” but said nations in the region “have begun to take collective responsibility for managing migration flows through repatriation.”

US border agents have made a record 1.8 million migrant arrests so far in fiscal year 2022, many of which have been attempted multiple times, creating humanitarian challenges and political liabilities for Biden ahead of the November 8 midterm election Is.

Of the arrests at the southwest border, nearly a quarter of the migrants were from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, up 8% in 2021 and 3% in 2020. Most were let into the United States to pursue immigration matters.

The Biden administration has publicly sought to end the COVID health order, known as Title 42. Released in early 2020 under former Republican President Donald Trump, it allows US border officials to rapidly expel migrants from Mexico or other countries without a chance to seek US asylum. , A federal Trump-appointed judge in Louisiana blocked the administration from quashing the order earlier this year, even as US health officials said it was no longer needed to protect against COVID spread. read more

But behind closed doors, some Biden officials still see the expansion of evictions as a way to deter crossers, one of the US officials said, even if it contrasts with the Democratic Party’s more welcoming message toward migrants.

Advocates and many Democrats fiercely oppose Title 42, saying it exposed migrants to dangerous conditions in Mexico, including kidnapping and extortion.

“I think it really betrays their commitments to refugee protection,” said Robin Barnard, associate director of refugee advocacy with Human Rights First, a New York City-based nonprofit organization.

mexico hesitated

Two Mexican officials told Reuters that Mexico does not want to expel Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the United States because those countries oppose accepting deportation flights from Mexico.

Instead, Mexico aims to ease pressure on the shared border by allowing internal flights of migrants from its northern border to its southern border, one of the officials said.

Mexico wants Washington to ease economic sanctions against Venezuela to help prevent exodus from the country and make it easier for migrants to work legally in the United States, two Mexican officials said.

Meanwhile, US border officials in El Paso, Texas, say they have been forced to abandon hundreds of migrants on city streets near shelters and bus stations to ease overcrowding at their facilities.

El Paso’s deputy city manager Mario D’Agostino said many visiting Venezuelans have no family members or sponsors, further charities and government agencies that assist them.

Reuters Graphics

The Democrat-controlled city has contracted charter buses to transport migrants north of New York City, an effort that gained national attention after Republican governors of Texas and Arizona forced thousands of migrants to settle in Democrat-led northern cities. comes after. read more

pressure on other nations

Sources said Biden officials are exploring ways to pass the responsibility to other countries beyond Mexico.

For example, the White House wants Panama to accept deported Venezuelans if they pass through the Central American nation on their way to the United States, two US officials said.

According to official figures, about 70,000 Venezuelans entered Panama from its Colombian border by August this year, compared to 1,150 in the same period last year.

Panama government officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Separately, the Biden administration was sending a small number of Venezuelans to the Dominican Republic on commercial flights, two of the US officials said, a continuation of Trump-era exercises.

But the program was put on hold earlier this year after a push from the office of Democrat Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, according to one of the US officials and a person familiar with the matter. In February, Menendez called migrants fleeing Venezuela’s “brutal regime” in third countries “extremely disturbing”.

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Reporting by Ted Hesson, Matt Spatalnik and Humayra Pamuk in Washington and Dave Graham and Diana Solomon in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Jose Luis González in Ciudad Juárez and Alida Moreno in Panama City; Editing by Micah Rosenberg and Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principals.

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