5:05 P.M. PDT
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. And hi, everyone. I appreciate you all tuning in.
Before we get started, I just wanted to set the ground rules and remind you all that this call is on background, embargoed until 5:00 a.m. Eastern. We hope to have a factsheet for you sometime tonight, if not the declaration language, to make sure that you guys have enough context.
And you may attribute the contents of the call to a “senior administration official.”
With that, I’ll kick it over to my colleague, [senior administration official].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great, thank you so much, [senior administration official]. And thank you all for joining us this evening. We’re excited to be able to talk to you about the Los Angeles Declaration that the President will be presenting tomorrow with other heads of state.
So just to provide some background: The Western Hemisphere, as a region, is undergoing historic and unprecedented rates of irregular migration. Nearly every country has been impacted. And that is why President Biden is pursuing bold and concrete action to address hemispheric responsibility for the migration challenge the region is facing.
Tomorrow, President Biden, alongside fellow heads of state, will announce a regional partnership to address historic migration flows affecting every country in the region.
President Biden is asking all governments along the migratory route to establish and fortify asylum processing in each of their respective countries while more effectively enforcing their borders, conducting screenings, and removing those individuals who do not qualify for asylum.
The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection is centered around responsibility sharing and economic support for countries that have been most impacted by refugee and migration flows. It sets forth a framework for a coordinated and predictable way for states to manage migration, and focuses on four main pillars: stability and assistance for communities, legal pathways, humane border management, and coordinated emergency response.
This is a historic moment for our country. No prior administration has so assertively engaged to the region to secure concrete commitments to share responsibility and act to address this regional challenge. And no U.S. President has stood in solidarity with Canada, the countries of Latin America, and the Caribbean in this way.
I’d like to take a moment to share a few of the bold new migration-related deliverables that will be shared tomorrow.
Under the declaration, governments will commit to collectively expand temporary worker programs to address labor shortages while reducing irregular migration. We see this as a true win-win for countries such as the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and other countries across the Western Hemisphere that are facing massive labor shortages.
It will also open, expand, and reinforce other legal channels for migration — including refugee resettlement, family unification — which will also help address critical labor shortages.
And we will surge support for countries that are hosting large refugee and migrant populations, and combat and root out human smuggling networks that prey on the most vulnerable in the region.
Additionally, President Biden will announce an ambitious package of new actions to combat irregular migration in a humane and sustainable way. For instance:
Jobs. We’ll strengthen the U.S. economy by addressing labor shortages, again, through the expansion of labor migration pathways, while strengthening protections for workers.
Under stability and assistance, we’ll surge support to refugee- and migrant-hosting countries to stabilize populations and reduce secondary flows towards our southern border.
Refugees. We’ll demonstrate U.S. leadership in refugee response through our new and ambitious resettlement and funding commitments.
And law enforcement. Announcing a first-of-its-kind and unprecedented-in-scale campaign to disrupt and dismantle human smuggling networks across Latin America.
And last, support for Haiti. We will announce deliverables to help the people of Haiti, in light of the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the country.
The Los Angeles Declaration demonstrates the commitment of the entire region to step up collectively to address the challenges of historic levels of migration. Many countries across the region have already been absorbing millions of immigrants, migrants, and refugees, and it’s time that we work together to address this challenge.
Tomorrow’s announcement is a major step forward towards solving the unprecedented irregular migration challenge in the region and along our border while also focusing resources to modernize immigration and temporary worker programs to address labor shortages that are driving up prices.
I look forward to taking your questions. And back to you, [senior administration official].
MODERATOR: Thanks so much.
Q Hi, [senior administration official]. Thank you for doing this. I guess my main question is: How is the U.S. hoping to ensure that countries who take part in this declaration actually follow through on the commitments that you just outlined, especially the commitment around making sure that folks who don’t qualify for asylum are returned to their home country, especially folks who are able to come to the U.S. and who are not able to establish a legal basis to remain here?
How are you hoping to make sure those countries actually follow through on that commitment? Are you providing them anything in return? Or can you explain that for me, please?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, thanks so much for the question. And this is, I think — you know, it’ll be an ongoing dialogue. I think that the process of developing the declaration really helps to bring us together to work — you know, there’s been a lot of work over the course of months, at all levels, to develop the text and to come up — you know, develop consensus around these ideas.
And so, but this is just the beginning. You will see, I think, tomorrow, not only the U.S. but many countries making concrete commitments around these four pillars that I mentioned, including the one that you just highlighted about strengthening asylum systems, cross-screening people that enter one border, repatriating people that don’t qualify. This is really critical. But actions are the most important thing.
So I think you will see the United States continue to engage actively with all of these countries. We will lead by example, but we will certainly expect that all countries do their part. This is — you know, at its heart, at its core — is about responsibility sharing.
And so, we will continue to provide support to countries that are really making a strong effort to build their asylum capacity. There’s many countries in the region that are doing that. And through the State Department, we provide a lot of support, and we will continue to do so.
Q Hi, thank you so much. Can you provide more details about the support for Haiti that’s going to be announced tomorrow? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks for the question. I don’t want to get ahead of the President, but that’s just to say that I think we recognize that — you know, the need to expand legal pathways for — just in general, but also specifically countries where we’re seeing high outflows that are directly related to humanitarian situations and security situations.
And so, I think the goal here is to provide legal channels so that folks don’t have to take irregular means to get to safety or to reunite with family.
Q Hi. I wanted to ask about the pillar on expanding things like temporary worker programs and family reunification. I think, at least in the United States, that would require congressional action, and that’s something that the Biden administration already supports. So, what in the declaration is going to meaningfully change the situation for the United States, which as we know is taking in the vast majority of migrants in the Western Hemisphere?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We would absolutely love to see Congress act on this. I think we see that there’s a real opportunity to expand legal channels for migration, and that — that would be good for our economy, good for the United States, but it would also directly have an impact on reducing irregular migration.
We will do everything we can within our executive authority. So, you know, I think you’ve already seen in the last year and a half the Biden administration do everything that we can to expand access to the H-2A and H-2B program. We’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of people that have been able to access that program and have come on temporary work visas from Central America by the — you know, we’ve done the supplemental for H-2Bs.
We have done a lot of work — USAID, in particular — on the ground to help build the capacity of the labor ministries in the three northern Central American countries.
And then we’ve done a lot to, you know, make sure that employers are aware of how the program works and to better match workers in countries like Central America with, you know, employers that are that are seeking — that are facing labor shortages.
So, I think what you’ll see tomorrow are additional efforts to try to support employers in the U.S. to more easily bring in workers from the region. And, you know, other ways that that we’ve — coupled with worker protections — strengthening worker protections, as that’s been sort of a really important thing for us that we’re not only expanding access to work visas, but also addressing longstanding exploitation that exists in those programs.
So, again, we’re doing everything we can and it’s something that I think a lot of other countries are looking to do as well.
We will not be the only country tomorrow to announce ways in which we’re seeking to expand labor pathways. But you make a great point that without congressional action, there’s only so much we can do.
Q Hello, thank you for doing this tonight. My question is: Does the administration trust the government of Ariel Henry to do what it should with the deliverables for Haiti?
And also, we’ve been getting questions from Haitian migrants about whether the administration would consider extending TPS for them.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All I can say is that, you know, our deliverables tomorrow are focused on providing opportunities for the people of Haiti. Thanks.
Q Hi, [senior administration official]. Thank you so much for doing this call. I am wondering if you can tell us: Is every country in the Western Hemisphere expected to sign? What about the countries that are not present?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. We don’t expect every country to sign. And we — as we were — as we were developing the declaration and engaging with countries in the hemisphere, we were prioritizing countries that are most impacted by migration and refugee flows.
And, you know, as the President has pointed out, there’s countries in the region — we’re certainly not the only one. And there are some countries that have been particularly impacted by the Venezuelan outflows, the Nicaraguan outflows. A country, you know, like Costa Rica and Panama, you know, 9, 10 percent of their population are made up of immigrants and refugees.
So, you know, there’s certain countries that, I think, feel the pain and recognize the value in coming together, working on responsibility sharing, and advancing — exploring new tools that we can employ to better bring the situation under control.
So those — we’ve sought to build consensus among those states. And, of course, we opened it up to any other country that wanted to join us, but we were — we were never seeking to have all countries in the Western Hemi- — we didn’t expect to have all countries in the Western Hemisphere sign.
Q So, I had a question about screening people for asylum. If I understand you correctly, you’re hoping that other countries screen people at their border. Is it sort of the hope that fewer people reach the United States border and apply for asylum once they get there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The goal really is — I keep on saying — it’s responsibility sharing. You know, we want — we don’t — we want all countries to enforce their own immigration laws. We want those that enter international borders to have the opportunity to be screened for asylum or other forms of protection or immigration relief. And we want those who’d be qualified to be returned to their home country.
It’s (inaudible) three, four, five borders to access (inaudible). And we really do expect all countries to (inaudible).
Q Hi. So, how many countries do you expect to sign the declaration? And will we see concrete numbers assigned to each country whether it’s in (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’ll be able to provide you more details on all that tomorrow. I think you will be pleased to see a long list of deliverables from the countries that adopt the declaration. You know, this is really important to the President that this not be a statement of principles — that countries come forward with something to put on the table, just as we will be doing.
And so, you know, I think there’ll be a very ambitious and concrete slate of deliverables. And we look forward to sharing that with you very soon.
Q Hi, thank you. I mean, I think I just want to second some of the questions have already been asked. If you all can provide any additional details on what these deliverables might look like, how many countries are signing on to the declaration, and even how many countries have agreed to provide these kinds of deliverables that we can include in our stories ahead of tomorrow’s announcement, that would be really helpful. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. One piece that I realize I haven’t spoken about that might be of interest to all of you is — and this connects to the economic agenda that the President laid out on the first day of the summit, on Wednesday — is we’re really looking at ways in which we can provide more support to middle-income countries in the Western Hemisphere that are hosting large refugee and migrant populations.
I think they see that this is a region that has a long tradition of solidarity, welcoming one’s neighbors, but, you know, the impact of COVID and now the Russian aggression in Ukraine — we’re seeing countries — it’s a lot harder for countries to be welcoming and to host. And so that’s why we have seen, I think, a real uptick in secondary movements.
So, one thing that you will see tomorrow are — (audio drop) — are really strained under the weight of welcoming, you know —
MODERATOR: [Senior administration official]?
Q — hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of additional, you know, migrants and refugees.
So, you know, work that we’ll do with the International — you know, the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, and other donors to provide more new sources of financing for these countries. And financing that will support not only the refugees and migrants, but the host communities themselves.
So that’s one more — one other area beyond what I briefed before where I think you’ll see that’s providing some specifics tomorrow.
Q Hi there. Just a follow-up to some of the questions that were already asked here. How much were the governments of Mexico and Guatemala involved in or consulted with in drafting the declaration? And does the administration still have faith that their commitment to this is solid, despite their absence at the summit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I can say that we have very strong bilateral cooperation with both Guatemala and Honduras on migration. And they’ve been — we’ve engaged with them quite a bit in the development of the declaration and have welcomed their support.
MODERATOR: Thanks so much, [senior administration official]. And thanks, everyone for joining, again.
And sorry, we are moving, so the call dropped a few minutes.
Just as a reminder, this call is under 5:00 a.m. embargo. And we hope to share a draft embargo factsheet shortly.
Talk soon. Bye.
5:25 P.M. PDT