The US negotiates with Mexico a program to support refugees

US and Mexican officials are discussing a new US refugee program for some non-Mexican asylum seekers waiting in Mexico, as part of President Joe Biden’s attempts to open up more legal avenues for migration, four sources said.

The program would likely be open to Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan refugees in Mexico, the sources said. The migrants they would have to prove they were in Mexico before June 6 to be eligible for the program, one of the sources revealed.

The sources, a US official, a Mexican official and two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue was still under debate and no final decision had been made. It is not clear how many people could benefit from the program.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants from those four nations have passed through Mexico en route to USA during the political and economic turmoil of recent years, straining the resources of both countries and putting political pressure on Biden, a Democrat seeking re-election in 2024.

The plan being discussed would allow migrants who qualify for refugee status to enter through the US refugee resettlement program, which is only available to applicants abroad, the sources said.

Unlike most immigrants who apply for asylum after entering the United States, refugees receive immediate work authorization and government benefits, such as housing and employment assistance.

Refugees using the US resettlement program can apply to become permanent residents within one year, which offers more stability than other options. To be approved, they must show that they suffer persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or political opinion.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry said that it maintains constant communication with the United States to expand labor mobility and refugee protection and assured that it has held discussions on various programs and policies, always safeguarding national sovereignty.

However, Mexico has not reached any agreement with USAmaintained the chancellery.

The Biden administration opened new avenues for migrants to enter the United States legally as part of a broader strategy to deter people from crossing the US-Mexico border illegally.

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Immigrants waiting in Mexico they can apply to enter the United States through a smartphone app and claim asylum later, but the app’s slots fill up quickly.

Under another Biden program, Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans can apply to enter the United States by air if they have American sponsors.

But those routes do not provide the same benefits available to refugees or a direct path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

In April, the Biden administration said it aimed to admit 40,000 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, doubling a previous goal. As of May 31, some 3,400 had arrived, showing that the pace would have to pick up a lot to reach the target.

Some refugee advocates worry that the focus on Latin America could slow down the processing of refugees from other parts of the world, including those already awaiting approval.

The initiative under discussion would be a “Priority Two” refugee program, the sources said, similar to the one opened for Afghans in 2021. Such programs allow certain groups of people to apply for refugee status directly without the need for a referral from The United Nations.

Despite the discussions, Mexico has significant concerns, the Mexican official said.

If the program encourages more migrants to enter Mexico, it could strain the country’s already limited resources to deal with migrants, the official explained.

One of Mexico’s main concerns is where the immigrants would be processed, according to the official.

If the United States will use its existing consular facilities, the plan could work, but any new US center in Mexico for this purpose would be politically fraught, the official said.

The pending decisions will also require the participation of Mexico’s next foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, who has not yet been confirmed for the position, the official said.

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