Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Top Central American Leaders Urge Biden to Slow Deportations from U.S.

Regional leaders in Central America are calling on President Obama to slow the rate of deportations of undocumented workers from the United States. Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Chile and Costa Rica the past two days, met with leaders and said the current economic crisis will delay an “immediate response” to the issue.
“It’s difficult to tell a constituency while unemployment is rising, they’re losing their jobs and their homes, that what we should do is in fact legalize [illegal immigrants] and stop all deportation,” said Biden in a news conference in Costa Rica.
One of the main focuses for Central American regional leaders in discussion with Biden was to push the U.S. to include Guatemalans in a temporary visa program that is already in place for Salvadorans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans. They also want the U.S. to ease a deportation policy that sent a record 80,000 people back to the region in 2008 alone.
The vice president said the problem can only be solved in the context of overall immigration reform.
According to the Inter-American Development Bank, deportations coupled with the U.S. economic downturn have hit the region hard. During the last quarter of 2008, money sent home by Central American migrants living in the U.S. fell 4 percent, compared to the same period the previous year.
Remittances, a major source of foreign revenue for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, have also decreased.. Prior to the crisis, the amount of money sent to these nations from its citizens abroad (or from the U.S.) had been growing steadily.

Deputy Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon said Biden will work toward securing loans for Central American social projects from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
Biden published an op-ed that ran in eleven papers in Latin America stressing the importance of his visit to the region, “These meetings are a first and important step toward a new day for relations and the development of a partnership between the countries and peoples of the hemisphere.”

As previously reported in La Plaza, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Mexico discussing important issues such as the escalating violence related to drug cartels on the border.  Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the President plan to visit Mexico this April. Obama will stop on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Biden’s trip is an opportunity to reach out to the Americas in the run up to that summit and to “begin to re-energize cooperation in the hemisphere … sending a signal that the U.S. is strongly interested in engaging the region and consulting with the countries in a cooperative way,” said Peter DeShazo, director of the America’s Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Biden also discussed the Merida Initiative, which sent $400 million to Mexico in counter-narcotics aid, while Central America and the Caribbean are receiving $65 million.

Associated Press

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