U.S. President Joe Biden, along with other Western Hemisphere leaders, unveiled a host of measures to confront migration despite divisions over Biden's invitation list at their summit in Los Angeles.
The agreement on "The Los Angeles Declaration" came Friday on the final day of the Summit of the Americas, which has been roiled by Biden's decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela for not being democratic enough. The leaders of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras skipped the summit over the move while other South American leaders admonished Biden for his decision.
Biden said Friday that 20 nations have signed up to take part in the Los Angeles Declaration, which he said is "transforming our approach to managing migration in the Americas."
The declaration includes a series of measures related to migration, including increasing guest worker programs, providing aid to communities most affected by migration and implementing humane border management.
"Migration should be a voluntary, informed choice and not a necessity," the declaration states, adding, "We acknowledge that addressing irregular international migration requires a regional approach."
It includes commitments by nations across the Americas, including a plan for Mexico to increase worker visas for Guatemalans and for Costa Rica to extend protections for Cubans, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.
Biden said part of the action the United States is taking is a campaign to disrupt human smuggling across the region.
"If you prey on desperate and vulnerable migrants for profit, we are coming for you," he said.
The Department of Homeland Security began the anti-smuggling campaign two months ago, allocating $50 million for the program along with more than 1,300 personnel throughout the region, according to the White House.
The president said the United States is also providing over $300 million to countries hosting refugees and migrants.
He said the money will "make sure migrants can see a doctor [and] find opportunities to work so they don't have to undertake the dangerous journey north."
Biden said the United States will expand opportunities for people to come to the United States, allowing 20,000 refugees from the region to resettle in the country over the next two years.
Despite the raft of proposals that are part of the Los Angeles Declaration, some analysts say it does not do enough to address the root causes of migration.
"The structural root cause of migration in countries in Central America that are having enormous difficulties – including Mexico – [is the] fight against its criminal cartels, its organized crime. That is not sufficiently being discussed. And it's not an easy question," said Enrique Dussel Peters, a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
The summit has been overshadowed by the disagreements surrounding Biden's decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Diego Abente Brun, director of the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program at George Washington University, told VOA the absence of the leaders of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala – who skipped the summit because of Biden's pared-down guest list – was not good for the United States.
"Here in the United States, our problem is the migrants from the Northern Triangle. So how would you deal with that without the presence of these three countries that are the most directly involved: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala?" he asked.
Since Biden became president, he has faced a record surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border. He has been criticized for his handling of the crisis both by Republicans who say he is not doing enough to stop the flow of migrants as well as some in his own Democratic Party who say he has been too slow to repeal Trump-era immigration policies, which they argue were too harsh against migrants.
The president said Friday that the global economic crisis, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and made worse by Russia's war in Ukraine, along with political turmoil from autocratic regimes, is to blame for record levels of migration.
The president said the migration was not just to the United States, noting that Colombia is hosting millions of refugees from Venezuela, and that 10% of Costa Rica's population is made up of migrants.