Leaders at Americas summit eye plan to manage migration impact

Some nations were poised not to sign the summit declaration. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Leaders attending the Summit of the Americas are poised to issue a declaration pledging measures to curb illegal migration and help countries receiving large number of migrants to cope with them, according to a draft document seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The document, dated both June 6 and June 7, included commitments to work on convening banks to review their financial instruments for migrant-hosting countries, as well as improving migrants' access to public and private services.

It also lists pledges by Western hemisphere countries to work together to boost regional law enforcement cooperation, information sharing and visa regimes, while attempting to strengthen and expand temporary labor opportunities.

The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the draft was final.

Some nations were poised not to sign the summit declaration, according to one person familiar with the matter. Some Caribbean countries would not approve it, an official at the summit said.

US negotiators are expected to work right up until the rollout ceremony to convince skeptical governments to accept, or at least, not openly oppose, the summit commitments. Some countries are likely to remain holdouts, the source said.

Alongside the declaration, the US is slated to announce several migration programmes, including some tied to the hiring of temporary workers from Central America, a Biden administration official said.

One pilot programme developed by the US Department of Agriculture and other agencies will allocate US$65 million (S$90 million) in US government funding to help farmers hire workers and improve work conditions. Separately, the Biden administration will issue guidance on best practices for ethical recruitment.

"We see expanding these lawful pathways as a small but meaningful part of the comprehensive strategy to address irregular migration," the official told Reuters.

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in January 2021 pledging to reverse many of the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, Mr Donald Trump. But he has struggled to contain record numbers of border crossings.

Immigration has been high on the agenda at the summit in Los Angeles. However, the absence of leaders from Mexico and other countries that send many migrants north has raised questions about how much progress would be made on it.

Washington chose to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit, prompting some leaders to stay away.

In recent months, the Biden administration has sought to portray migration as a challenge for all of the Americas, calling on other countries to strengthen protection systems for migrants and expand their access to legal pathways.

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