Mexico's government has agreed to accept non-Mexican migrants and asylum-seekers deported by U.S. authorities along the southern border even after the pandemic-related emergency rule known as Title 42 lapses next week, Mexican and U.S. officials said in a joint statement late Tuesday.
The agreement between Washington and Mexico City will allow the Biden administration to continue deporting some migrants who U.S. officials have struggled to deport to their home countries due to diplomatic or logistical reasons, such as Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.
It will also allow the U.S. to continue a major component of the border strategy President Biden unveiled this year — applying "consequences" to, or deporting, migrants who enter the country unlawfully and fail to use a legal migration channel created by his administration.
The agreement was announced after senior U.S. officials, including Mr. Biden's Homeland Security Adviser, Liz Sherwood-Randall, met with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City to outline their plans to manage migration once Title 42 expires next week.
Since March 2020,, a public health authority dating back to World War II, has allowed U.S. border agents to expel hundreds of thousands of migrants to Mexico or their home countries without giving them a chance to seek asylum. The policy is set to sunset on May 11, with the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Most migrants have been expelled to Mexico, which has accepted returns of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, alongside its own citizens, under Title 42. Since January, Mexico has also accepted expulsions of migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela.
Senior U.S. officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, had previously said that it was their intention to continue deporting migrants from these four crisis-stricken countries to Mexico. But Mexico had not publicly announced their agreement until Tuesday. In the joint statement, Mexico said it would continue receiving non-Mexican migrants for "humanitarian reasons."
The deportations after Title 42 end would be carried out under regulation immigration law, including a process known as expedited removal, which could lead to migrants' swift deportation, and banishment from the U.S. for five years, if they don't claim asylum or are deemed ineligible for protection.
Those deportations are expected to work in conjunction with a soon-to-be finalized regulation that will disqualify non-Mexican migrants from asylum if they failed to seek refuge in a third country before entering the U.S. illegally.
The five-pillar plan unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. and Mexico also highlighted efforts to target human smugglers, including a campaign with Panamanian and Colombian officials to stem the flow of migration near the notorious and roadless Darién jungle connecting Panama with South America
The plan includes references to improving conditions in Central America, expanding legal migration pathways for would-be migrants and modernizing ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border to facilitate legal trade and travel. Officials also pointed to the establishment of processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala, announced last week by the U.S., so migrants can be considered for resettlement in those countries, the U.S., Canada or Spain.
The plan revealed for the first time that the U.S. had committed to admitting up to 100,000 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salavador under a program that will allow citizens of those countries to enter the U.S. legally if they have approved visa sponsorship requests from family members who are U.S. citizens or legal residents.
Tuesday's agreement underscores the growing influence and role of the Mexican government in U.S. efforts to manage and deter migration to the southern border, where U.S. officials are preparing for what could be a historic spike in illegal crossings.
The Biden administration is preparing for more than 10,000 migrants to enter U.S. border custody each day after Title 42 lifts, a number that would double the daily average in March. In the lead-up to the policy shift, border arrivals have already increased sharply, with U.S. border agents recording between 7,000 and 8,000 migrant apprehensions in recent days.
On Tuesday, the Pentagonthe deployment of another 1,500 troops to the southern border to relieve some of the pressure on border agents by helping them with operational duties, such as transportation and data entry. In accordance with federal law and long-standing practice, the active-duty service members will not detain or otherwise process migrants.
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