In a move to curb arrivals at the southern border once a pandemic-era provision expires next month, the United States will build regional processing centres for migrants in Colombia and Guatemala, senior Biden administration officials revealed on Thursday
According to officials on a conference call with reporters, the government is also in talks with more Latin American countries and may announce new processing centres in the coming weeks. Migrants will be screened at the centres for eligibility under the US Refugee Admissions Programme and other humanitarian and labour avenues.
As per the Biden administration officials, Spain and Canada will accept recommendations from the regional centres.
“Migration affects every country in the region,” a senior official told Los Angeles Times. “No one country can provide solutions for millions of displaced people on its own.”
The announcement comes two weeks before the scheduled expiration of Title 42 orders, which were put in place during the COVID-19 outbreak and banned migrants from obtaining asylum, allowing border officers to quickly return many of them to Mexico.
When Title 42 orders are lifted on May 11, immigration officers will resume processing persons under the long-established jurisdiction of Title 8. Deportations under Title 8 have harsher penalties, including possible criminal prosecution and a five-year ban on readmission.
According to an official, the Department of Homeland Security would significantly boost the use of expedited removal to process migrants’ petitions for relief within days. US Customs and Border Protection has built phone booths and peaceful locations to border facilities to facilitate attorney calls and asylum interviews.
The administration will increase the number of available appointments through the CBP One mobile application. As per the official, it would also launch a family reunion programme for persons from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as include Colombians, as well as update existing reunification programmes for those from Cuba and Haiti.
For the past year, officials at the Department of Homeland Security have been preparing to phase out Title 42 orders.