The U.S. Will Establish Migrant Centers in Latin America to Limit Border Arrivals

Four people who know about the plan told CBS News on Wednesday that the Biden administration will announce the opening of immigration processing centers in Latin America on Thursday. This is part of an effort to cut down on the number of people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The brick-and-mortar processing centers would be regional hubs where migrants would be screened to see if they fit for programs to legally enter the U.S., said the sources, who asked not to be named because they were talking about the plan before it was made public.

The centers would be in places in Latin America where a lot of people stop on their way to the southern border of the United States. The sources said that U.S. officials have talked to countries like Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala about putting these centers in their countries.

The U.S. would send diplomatic officers to the centers to talk to migrants and staff from the host countries to find out if migrants have a legal way to stay there. When asked about the centers, representatives from the White House and the Department of State did not reply right away.

One goal of the regional processing centers is to cut down on and slow down migration to the U.S.-Mexico border, where officials are getting ready to end Title 42, a policy from the pandemic era that has let them quickly send migrants back to Mexico over 2.7 million times since March 2020 without processing their asylum claims.

The End of Title 42

The processing centers are likely to be one part of bigger news the administration will make Thursday about how it is getting ready for the end of Title 42 on May 11, when the national COVID-19 public health emergency is set to end. Officials have made predictions that the number of migrants arriving at the southern border next month could rise to between 10,000 and 13,000.

A top U.S. official told CBS News that illegal border crossings have already gone up before the policy change, especially in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The Border Patrol caught 7,500 migrants on Tuesday alone, which is more than 40% more than the daily average for March, an officer said.

The tweet below verifies the news:

To stop people from crossing the border illegally after Title 42 ends, the Biden administration has been working to finish a rule that says migrants can’t get asylum if they enter the country illegally and didn’t try to get help in a third country they went through on their way to the U.S.

Administration officials have said that the policy, which is similar to a Trump-era rule, will discourage illegal crossings and encourage migrants to apply for two programs that were announced in January: a sponsorship program that allows up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to fly to the U.S. each month, and a phone app that asylum-seekers in Mexico can use to request entry at ports of entry along the southern border.

This month, the Biden administration also started a plan to speed up the first screenings for asylum that migrants go through when they are dealt with under regular immigration rules instead of Title 42. U.S. asylum officers talk to migrants in the program over the phone while they are still in the care of the Border Patrol. This is a change from the old way of doing things, which was to wait until they were moved to long-term facilities.

CBS News got an internal notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this week that said nearly 480 employees would be moved to help the 1,000-person asylum officer corps do these “credible fear” interviews. These interviews decide whether migrants are deported or allowed to seek asylum.

The processing centers are part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to get countries in the Western Hemisphere to help manage unauthorized migration. This is a promise that 20 countries made at the Summit of the Americas in June 2022 in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.

The governments of the U.S., Colombia, and Panama revealed a two-month operation to stop migrant smuggling in the Darién Gap, a roadless, mountainous jungle that tens of thousands of migrants have passed through in the past year on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

As part of the planning for the end of Title 42, U.S. officials have thought about bringing back the controversial policy of keeping some migrant families with children in holding centers. This policy was stopped by the Biden administration in 2021.

In an interview with CBS News last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas was asked if the practice would be brought back. He said that “no decision” had been made.

But Mayorkas said that “deterrence alone will not solve the challenge of migration.”

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