Biden aims to ease border migration restrictions end as


WASHINGTON (AP) — With COVID-19 immigration restrictions set to expire, the Biden administration announced measures meant to stop migrants from illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, both by cracking down on many of those who do come, and by creating new pathways meant to offer an alternative to the dangerous journey.

The effort includes opening processing centers outside the United States for people fleeing violence and poverty to apply to fly in legally and settle in the United States, Spain or Canada. The first processing centers will open in Guatemala and Colombia, with others expected to follow.

The administration also plans to swiftly screen migrants seeking asylum at the border itself, quickly deport those deemed as not being qualified, and penalizing people who cross illegally into the U.S. or illegally through another country on their way to the U.S. border.

But it is unclear whether the measures will do much to slow the tide of migrants fleeing countries marred by political and economic strife. Further increasing the pressure is the looming end of public health rules instituted amid the pandemic that allowed for quickly expelling many migrants and set to expire on May 11.

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“This is a hemispheric challenge that demands hemispheric solutions,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a news conference as he laid out how the U.S. is working with other countries in the region.

Mayorkas also warned that migrants and human smugglers should not interpret the upcoming deadline to mean that everyone should come: ”Let me be clear, our border is not open and will not be open after May 11.”

Immigration has vexed Biden throughout his presidency, with top GOP leaders hammering him as soft on border security. Immigrant advocates, meanwhile, argue that the president is abandoning humanitarian efforts with stricter measures meant to keep migrants from coming illegally.

The topic isn’t going away. As he announces his 2024 reelection bid, Biden is trying to strike a balance that could be difficult to achieve, particularly if crowds of migrants end up in border facilities after May 11.

The administration has also repeatedly pointed to Congress, saying it has been unable to come to an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform.

The efforts announced Thursday build on a carrot-and-stick approach to immigration that the administration has been increasingly using, whereby they offer incentives like humanitarian parole visas for hundreds of thousands of people and harsh consequences for many who come to the border. Those have so far included:


— Processing centers: The administration will open migration centers in numerous countries starting with Guatemala and Colombia to be run by the International Organization of Migration and the U.N. agency tasked with helping refugees. There potential migrants can get information on various ways they can migrate to the United States, such as applying for refugee status or a worker program. The administration said both Canada and Spain have said they’d take migrants referred from these centers, although no specific numbers were given. The U.S. also said it would double the number of refugees taken from Central and South America. No specific number was given there, either, but during fiscal year 2023 the U.S. pledged to accept 15,000 refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean.