The Mexican government has agreed to accept non-Mexican migrants and asylum seekers deported by US authorities along the southern border, even after the pandemic-related emergency rule known as Section 42 expires next week, Mexican and US officials said joint statement late on Tuesday.
The the agreement between Washington and Mexico City would allow the Biden administration to continue deporting some migrants whom US officials have struggled to deport to their home countries for diplomatic or logistical reasons, such as Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.
It would also allow the U.S. to continue a key component of the border strategy released by President Biden this year — applying “consequences” to migrants who enter the country illegally and do not use the legal migration channel created by his administration, or deportation.
The agreement was announced after senior US officials, including Mr Biden’s national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City to outline their plans to manage migration after title 42 will expire next week.
From March 2020 Title 42, a World War II-era public health agency, allowed U.S. border officials to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico or their home countries, preventing them from seeking asylum. The policy expires on May 11 after the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Most of the migrants were deported to Mexico, which accepted the return of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador along with their nationals under Section 42. Since January, Mexico has also accepted the return of migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
Senior US officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, have previously said they intend to continue deporting migrants from the four crisis-hit countries to Mexico. But Mexico did not publicly announce its agreement until Tuesday. In a joint statement, Mexico said it would continue to accept non-Mexican migrants for “humanitarian reasons.”
Post-Section 42 deportations will be carried out under immigration law, including a process known as expedited removal, which can quickly deport migrants and banish them from the US for five years if they do not seek asylum or are found ineligible for protection.
Those deportations are expected to work in conjunction with soon-to-be-finalized legislation that would strip non-Mexican migrants of asylum eligibility if they failed to find asylum in a third country before entering the US illegally.
The five-pillar plan released Tuesday by the United States and Mexico also highlighted efforts to combat people smugglers, including a campaign with Panamanian and Colombian officials to stem the flow of migration in the notoriously roadless Darien jungle that connects Panama to South America.
The plan includes references to improving conditions in Central America, expanding legal migration pathways for would-be migrants, and upgrading entry points along the US-Mexico border to facilitate legal trade and travel. Officials also noted the creation of processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala announced last week by the US, so migrants could be considered for resettlement in those countries, the US, Canada or Spain.
The plan revealed for the first time that the US had committed to accepting up to 100,000 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador under a program that would allow citizens of those countries to enter the US legally if they approved visa requests from family members. who are US citizens or legal residents.
Tuesday’s agreement underscores the growing influence and role of the Mexican government in U.S. efforts to manage and curb migration to the southern border, where U.S. officials are bracing for what could be a historic surge in illegal crossings.
The Biden administration is bracing for more than 10,000 migrants to be detained at the US border every day after Title 42 is repealed, a number that would double the daily average in March. Ahead of the policy change, arrivals at the border had already spiked, with US border agents recording between 7,000 and 8,000 migrant apprehensions in recent days.
The Pentagon on Tuesday announced deploying 1,500 more troops to the southern border to relieve some of the pressure on border guards by helping them with operational duties such as transport and data entry. In accordance with federal law and longstanding practice, military personnel will not detain or otherwise process migrants.