US explores refugee programme for non-Mexican asylum seekers in Mexico
US and Mexican officials are discussing a new US refugee program for some non-Mexican asylum seekers waiting in Mexico, four sources said. This is part of Biden’s efforts to expand legal immigration options.
Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan refugees living in Mexico are likely to be eligible for the program, according to the sources. According to one of the sources, migrants would have to show they were in Mexico before June 6.
A US official, a Mexican official, and two people familiar with the matter, who all spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue was still being discussed and no final decisions had been made. Whether such a program would be beneficial to many people was unclear.
The influx of migrants from those four countries has strained resources in both countries and put pressure on Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in 2024, during economic and political turmoil in recent years.
Sources said the plan under discussion would allow migrants approved for refugee status to enter the US through the refugee resettlement program available only to applicants abroad. Refugees receive immediate work authorization and government benefits after entering the United States, unlike most migrants who claim asylum after entering.
As a result of the US resettlement program, refugees can apply to become permanent residents within one year, offering greater stability than other options. They must demonstrate persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political beliefs in order to be approved.
As part of its statement on expanding labor mobility and refugee protections, Mexico’s foreign ministry said it was in constant contact with the US. Accordingly, it had discussed a variety of programmes and policies while safeguarding national sovereignty. Mexico, however, has not yet reached an agreement with the US.
To discourage people from crossing the US-Mexico border illegally, the Biden administration has opened up new ways for immigrants to enter the country legally.
An app allows migrants waiting in Mexico to apply for entry to the US and request asylum later, but slots on the app fill up quickly. Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans can enter the US by air under another Biden program.
Refugees, on the other hand, have a direct path to permanent residence and eventually citizenship through these routes.
In April, the Biden administration announced it would admit 40,000 Latin American and Caribbean refugees between fiscal years 2023 and 2024. At the end of May, about 3,400 people had arrived, showing that the pace must be accelerated significantly.
Refugee backers are concerned that focusing on Latin America will slow the processing of refugees from other regions.
During the discussion, the sources said, a “Priority Two” refugee program would be discussed, similar to the one opened for Afghans in 2021. People who qualify for these programs may apply directly for refugee status without needing a referral from the United Nations. The Mexican official said Mexico still has significant concerns despite the discussions. This programme could tax Mexico’s already-strained resources for dealing with migrants if it encourages more migrants to enter, the official said.