Los Angeles Politics

U.S. to set up migrant centers to curb border arrivals

The United States will establish regional processing centers for migrants in Colombia and Guatemala in an effort to reduce arrivals at the southern border after a pandemic-era policy ends next month, senior Biden administration officials announced Thursday.

The administration is also in talks with additional Latin American countries, officials said on a call with reporters, and could announce more processing centers in the coming weeks. Migrants will be screened at the centers for eligibility under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian and labor pathways.

Spain and Canada will accept referrals from the regional centers, Biden administration officials said.

“Migration affects every country in the region,” a senior official said. “No one country can provide solutions for millions of displaced people on its own.”

The announcement comes two weeks ahead of the expected end of Title 42 orders, which were implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic and prevented migrants from requesting asylum, allowing border agents to return many of them swiftly back to Mexico.

When Title 42 orders lift May 11, immigration agents will return to processing people under the longstanding authority of Title 8. Deportations under Title 8 carry stiffer consequences, including potential criminal prosecution and barring people from reentry for at least five years.

An official said Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security will significantly expand the use of expedited removal to process migrants’ claims for relief within days. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has added phone booths and private spaces to border facilities to facilitate attorney calls and asylum interviews.

The administration will expand available appointments through the CBP One mobile application. It will also create a family reunification program for people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and include Colombians, the official said, as well as update existing reunification programs for people from Cuba and Haiti.

Department of Homeland Security officials have been planning for the end of Title 42 orders for the past year. One official said there are now 2,400 agents working across the southern border, and the agency plans to hire 300 more.

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