US President Joe Biden, along with leaders from 19 Latin American countries, unveiled a new plan to tackle migration in the Americas on Friday evening.

Biden unveiled the plan on the last day of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, vowing to transform “our approach to manage migration in the Americas.”

“Each of us is signing up to commitments that recognizes the challenges we all share,” Biden said at the signing of the deal.

The signatories of the deal include the three major Central American countries that play an outsized role in migration, namely, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; together known as the Northern Triangle.

Mexico, which plays a key role in curbing illegal migration at the US-Mexico border, also signed the pact.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the outcome of the summit was “very positive” given Biden’s call for greater economic cooperation and a more coordinated approach to migration.

Pact seeks to offer greater assistance to migrant communities

The agreement includes steps for the US and Canada to take more guest laborers, expands legal pathways for people from low-income countries to migrate to richer countries, and offers greater humanitarian assistance and protection for migrants.

Mexico will accept more Central American workers, according to the White House Statement on the plan, formally called the “The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.”

The Biden administration also pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for Venezuelan migrants across the region and renewed family-based visas for Cubans and Haitians.

The US also said it would make it easier to hire Central American workers as well.

Pact overshadowed by absence of leaders

The Central American countries’ cooperation was deemed essential because their leaders boycotted the southern Californian gathering over Biden’s decision to exclude three countries the US considers autocratic, namely Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The leaders’ boycott, most notably involving Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, dealt a big blow to the event, even as US officials tried to downplay it.

In the end, despite Biden’s assurances of the significance of the migration pact, only 20 countries signed it, several fewer than the number attending the summit.

Even that number was achieved as a result of US pressure over several days.

Biden said after the summit at a fundraising event in LA that he felt media coverage of the event had been unfairly negative, saying that he wished outlets “would go back and interview all the heads of state.”

He insisted there was “overwhelming, overwhelming support” for working together.

Biden seeks to restore influence in region

The Biden administration brought together the heads of states and governments from across the Americas for a two-day event in Los Angeles, home to the biggest Latino community in the US, to reassure them of US economic and social cooperation after former President Donald Trump limited economic links with them, saying they were failing to curb migration.

The administration is also seeking to counter growing Chinese influence in the region as Beijing develops stronger economic ties with several Latin American countries like Brazil and Argentina.

rm/msh (Reuters, AP)

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