Migration gets top billing as Biden hosts hemisphere leaders

Migration gets top billing as Biden hosts hemisphere leaders

Los Angeles: Migration has taken center stage at an assembly of Western Hemisphere leaders, reflecting its emergence as a top foreign policy issue amid red-carpet drama over who comes and who stays home.

The Los Angeles Declaration, to be announced while US President Joe Biden meets with his counterparts from North, Central and South America Wednesday through Friday, is expected to be a brief call to action that supporters hope will guide countries on hosting people fleeing violence and persecution and searching for more economic stability.

The United States has been the most popular destination for asylum-seekers since 2017, posing a challenge that has stumped Biden and his immediate predecessors, Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

But the US is far from alone. Colombia and neighboring South American countries host millions who have fled Venezuela. Mexico fielded more than 130,000 asylum applications last year, many of them Haitians, which was triple from 2020. Many Nicaraguans escape to Costa Rica, while displaced Venezuelans account for about one-sixth the population of tiny Aruba.

Countries are already having to do this, so rather than each country trying to sort this out and figure it out for themselves, what we're doing is saying, 'Let's come together in a coherent way and construct a framework so we can all work together to make this situation more humane and more manageable,' said Brian Nichols, assistant US secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Biden was scheduled to arrive at the summit Wednesday, trailed by questions about how much progress he can make on migration and other issues when some of his counterparts from the region most notably Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador are boycotting the event.

The controversy has undermined the start of the summit, which is being hosted by the US for the first time since the inaugural event in 1994, at a time when China has been trying to make inroads in the region.

Although Biden was heavily involved in Latin America while he was vice president, his focus has largely been elsewhere since taking office as president last year. He's been trying to reorient US foreign policy toward Asia while also rallying allies to punish Russia for its invasion

of Ukraine.

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