United States: The Visa Does Not Solve the Migration Crisis, What Is the Alternative?

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The growing arrival of millions of refugees at the US southern border, mainly Venezuelans, could lead the United States to rethink its strategy to stop the migration crisis .

Family crossing the US border

Photo: Wikimedia-Rev Sysyphus

Crisis Migratoria

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Leer en español: Estados Unidos: La visa no soluciona la crisis migratoria, ¿cuál es la alternativa?

The Office of Customs and Border Protection of the United States (CBP) published a few days ago its most recent data on "encounters" with migrants at the southern border. The figures reveal that, so far in 2022, 2.1 million people have tried to cross, almost half a million more people than the 1.7 million "encounters" the previous year. Despite Biden's conciliatory strategy, compared to that of the Trump era, migration levels continue to rise, the visa and other containment measures have been inefficient, what alternatives does the United States have?

Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba

The cases of these three countries are special, Nicaragua and Cuba have more experience in this area, to which Venezuela has joined due to the crisis under the government of Nicolás Maduro. Migrants from these countries cross through Mexico knowing that they have a slight "advantage" over other nationalities. This has caused an exodus from Venezuela in one of the largest migrations in the world in recent years. For the Republican southern states of the United States, Biden has had an erroneous strategy that has only made things worse: the temporary solution has been to send migrants on buses to other cities, in addition to empowering the National Guard in states like Texas to stop to migrants.

As a containment measure, the United States recognizes the right of Venezuelans to request asylum, and with it an opportunity to rebuild their lives. But Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was designed for just 343,000 Venezuelans, a figure that will soon be exceeded. So the US government has tried to use Colombia and Mexico as dykes against Venezuelan migration. However, the figures do not show an effective change in dynamics. Colombia has become a kind of immigration office, where Venezuelans apply (or try) for a US visa, while Mexico often functions as the first physical barrier to reach US territory.

Mexico, third safe country

During the Trump administration, the president took advantage of the pandemic and the global crisis to impose his rules on migration. He threatened Mexico to become a safe third country, so that he could immediately deport the migrants to Mexican soil. The reality is that Mexico is reluctant to receive migrants who are not from Central America, which would force the US government to deport the rest to their places of origin, something that has mobilized civil society. Biden has understood the message and has been reluctant to deport Venezuelans to his country, knowing the conditions in which they find themselves.

If Mexico does not want to receive deportations of Venezuelans, the southern states are reluctant to receive them and Biden refuses to deport them to his country, what would be the alternative? It seems like a difficult crossroads to resolve, the spaces for TPS are running out, meanwhile migrants continue to be "deported" from Texas to Democratic states and cities. The Republicans are opposed to the governments of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba, but at the same time they refuse to recognize their humanitarian problems and give them a solution.

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Trump on the offensive

Former Republican President Donald Trump has taken the opportunity to campaign in Pennsylvania, at an event in favor of loyal candidates. There Trump assured that if he returns to power he will eliminate the visa lottery, reinforce measures against illegal migration and reactivate the "Remain in Mexico" program that sought to remove the opportunity to request asylum from US soil. For Trump, Biden's measures only encourage the arrival of more migrants, which becomes an unsustainable situation and the way to return to the presidency.

What options does Biden have?

The US administration will have to decide soon whether to keep its strategy unchanged or rethink it, requesting visas from migrants has not been an effective measure for decades, the porosity of the border with Mexico, more than 3,000 km long, makes it a perfect place for the transit of people and illegal goods. His option is the same one that Trump has proposed, to use Mexico as the main dike that prevents illegal migration. The southern border of Mexico is "smaller" with an extension of 1,149 km, less than half of the northern border, already in 2019 Trump "forced" López Obrador to mobilize the National Guard to that area. However, Biden could take advantage of the same strategy as Trump, although with a different approach, the White House has maintained a positive attitude towards López Obrador's programs in Central America and has promised support.

Although migration has the United States as its final destination, Mexico is the main transit route, which makes it a binational problem. That is one of the reasons why Mexico has tightened its migratory measures towards Venezuelans, Central Americans and even Peruvians and Colombians, these last two members of the Pacific Alliance with whom at some point a common passport was even considered. The important thing is that the United States will not be able to solve the problem on its own, and even less with a border shield that on paper and in reality has not worked, the "encounters" with 2 million migrants are the sample.