Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other Biden administration officials are working to increase migration from Central America into the U.S., even as an expected surge of illegal crossings at the southern border is expected.
Mayorkas, alongside USAID Administrator Samantha Power, met with officials from Spain and Canada to discuss increasing labor-related migration. As a result of the meeting, the U.S. committed to welcoming more migrants from Central America and providing technical support for “sending countries” to beef up their ability to facilitate migration.
“The meeting focused on specific actions each country will take on expanding labor pathways that promote safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration, as well as to create economic and social opportunities and strengthen development options for the people of northern Central America and other countries in the Americas,” USAID spokeswoman Jessica Jennings said.
After the meeting, U.S. officials said they were looking to increase the number of H-2 visas, which allows noncitizens to work in the U.S., by 25% for workers from Central America, meaning an increase in 25,000 workers.
Another U.S. goal is to provide up to $65 million of taxpayer dollars to Central American nations “to operationalize a pilot grant program for agricultural employers to address labor instability and labor shortages.”
U.S. officials also hope to deter illegal immigration by making “labor migration opportunities more publicly visible, offering hope that alternatives to irregular movement exist.”
The meeting occurred as Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that allowed for the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants, is set to end on May 11. With the end of the policy looming, border crossings remain high and are expected to increase. Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said on Monday that law enforcement made over 22,000 apprehensions at the southern border over a three-day period.
Mayorkas’ office said this week that he would visit the southern border on Thursday and Friday “to review CBP and ICE planning and response operations ahead of the lifting of the Title 42 public health Order.”
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The Biden administration is also sending 1,500 troops to the U.S. southern border. The troops will perform administrative and logistical functions, leaving law enforcement to Border Patrol but freeing up agents to actively police the border and apprehend migrants, according to Fox News.
Ahead of the expected surge, El Paso Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency.
“I literally went through the streets, looked at people camping out on the streets, went to the shelters and kind of assessed the amount of people that are getting prepared to come into the United States for asylum seeking,” Leeser said.
Tim Pearce contributed to this report.