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U.S. to Open New Migrant Centers in Colombia and Guatemala with Plans for Additional Countries in Latin America

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Jun 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

In another effort to reduce the amount of arrivals at the southern border, the U.S. has announced plans to open new migrant centers in Colombia and Guatemala, with plans to open the same type of centers in additional Latin American countries.

So far this fiscal year, the U.S. has encountered about 1.5 million people attempting to enter the U.S. at the southern border. In May of 2023 Homeland Security released a report stating that intensifying conditions at the southwest border are negatively impacting the health of CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers. There have not been enough officers or agents to keep up with the surge of migrants arriving at the border every day, and the Biden Administration has been trying to find ways to aid the situation. 

The current idea to aid the situation is the Biden Administration's new goal of opening regional processing centers for migrants in Latin America. Although not a lot of detail has been announced about the centers yet, it appears that they will be differentiated from regular U.S. embassy appointments because the people screened will not have to have applied for a U.S. visa or immigrant status. The first centers will open in Guatemala and Colombia, and a memo obtained by Politico suggested that other hubs could be in Ecuador and eventually Costa Rica.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the new centers at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where it was stated that several thousand migrants will be screened at the centers each month for eligibility under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and other humanitarian and labor pathways. Secretary Blinken said he expects many more people to stay near the regional centers and wait for their chance to seek legal protections. Additionally, Secretary Blinken said that Spain and Canada will also take referrals from the regional centers. 

Unlike U.S. embassies, the migrant processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia will be run by “international partners”, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, aided by U.S. personnel. Migrants will be able to make an appointment by phone to visit the nearest center before traveling. 

At the centers it will be determined if the persons desiring to enter the U.S. qualify for entry before they can try to move on to the U.S. southern border. If eligible, migrants will be referred for refugee resettlement or other lawful pathways such as parole programs, family reunification or existing labor pathways. Migrants will also receive local information about host countries and available social services. The U.S. anticipates initially screening at least 5,000 or 6,000 migrants a month at the new processing centers.

So far the U.S. Embassy websites of Colombia and Guatemala have no further information on the opening dates of the regional centers, but they are expected to open in the coming weeks. 

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