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Summit of the Americas shows wide political gaps

By HENG WEILI in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-06-10 10:06

A display advertises the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, on June 6, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

While the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles contains all the trappings and pomp of a major international gathering, it takes place against the backdrop of an ongoing crush of migration to the United States' southwest border.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to transport migrants awaiting immigration proceedings from US cities along the southern border farther into the nation's interior, starting with Los Angeles in the coming weeks, according to internal documents obtained by NBC News.

The plan would help alleviate overcrowding along the border, at times leading US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to release migrants on the street.

The new model would use federal funds to send migrants to shelters in cities farther inside the country before they go to their final destinations. They also will be sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston; Dallas; and other cities.

DHS officials have jokingly called the model the "Abbott plan", an official said, referring to Texas Governor Greg Abbott's decision to bus migrants from Texas to Washington DC, to bring the surge directly to politicians in the capital, NBC reported.

In a statement, a DHS spokesperson said "no decision has been made" about sending migrants to interior cities.

"Should a decision be made," the spokesperson said, "DHS will continue to closely coordinate with and support cities and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to facilitate the movement of any individual encountered at the Southwest border who is placed into removal proceedings pending the next steps in their immigration proceedings."

A public health order known as Title 42, which dates to World War II, has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic to bar many asylum-seekers since 2020. The Biden administration had planned to let it lapse on May 23, but a judicial order on May 20 kept the rule in place for now. Fewer than 50 percent of migrants were expelled under Title 42 in April, NBC reported.

The CBP encountered migrants a record 234,088 times in April. Through April, there have been close to 1.5 million encounters in fiscal year 2022, which runs from Oct 1, 2021, through Sept 30, 2022.

"The Biden administration's total lack of leadership has isolated the few governments that were working with us to curb illegal immigration just a few years ago," Mateo Haydar, a research assistant on Latin America at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital. "Those countries perceive weakness in the Biden administration, so there is no incentive to cooperate on US interests.

"It's also delusional. The Biden administration claims to be signing a 'historic migration declaration.' What it expects to negotiate or agree on without the presidents of Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries is totally unclear," Haydar said.

US President Joe Biden said Thursday at the summit that the plan will be revealed Friday.

"Each one of our countries has been impacted by unprecedented migration. And I believe it's our shared responsibility to meet this challenge. And I emphasize shared. Tomorrow, a number of us will join in announcing the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection," Biden said.

The boycott of the summit by Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador over the snubbing of invitations to the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela over political ideology highlighted the divide in the region.

Also not attending the June 6-10 event — themed "Building a Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable Future" — were the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — countries of origin for much of the migrant flow to the US.

Eduardo Enrique Reina, Honduras foreign relations secretary, spoke about his country's President Xiomara Castro's decision to not attend.

"The president was very clear that this should be a summit without exclusions," Reina said, but added that the "political will to work with all countries in the Americas is there".

"We definitely would have wished for a different Summit of the Americas," Argentine President Alberto Fernández said. "The silence of those who are absent is calling to us. So this does not happen again, I would like to say, for the future, the fact that a country is the host country of the summit does not have the ability to impose the right of admission on member countries of the continent."

Organizations like the Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative (SJI) at Loyola Law School explained how not having every leader from the Western Hemisphere attend will "only further deteriorate conditions".

"Human trafficking knows no bounds or borders; vulnerable populations in Los Angeles become just as susceptible to trafficking as people in other Latin American countries," said Joseph Villela, SJI state policy director, reported borderreport.com.

"The root causes of trafficking remain the same, and we can only address and dismantle those root causes if all voices are brought to the table. The summit should include human trafficking and have brought together the private sector, government, indigenous communities and social justice organizations to adopt an intersectional approach to the summit," Villela said.

In the past week, the Border Patrol has intercepted massive amounts of narcotics, including $330,000 worth of fentanyl at the Hidalgo International Bridge in Texas on June 9; nearly $1.7 million worth of methamphetamine on June 5 at the Del Rio Point of Entry in Texas; about $500,000 worth of methamphetamine and fentanyl at the Calexico West Port of Entry in California on June 4; and $7.1 million of methamphetamine at the Laredo Port of Entry in Texas on June 3, according to recent CBP news releases.

The summit also underscores the stark economic disparities in the region.

World Bank data show that the US economy is more than 14 times the size of Brazil's, the next-largest economy at the summit. The sanctions the US and its allies placed on Russia over its military conflict with Ukraine have burdened Brazil, which imports fertilizer from Russia.

Trade data indicate that the region has deepening ties with China, which has also made investments in the region.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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