The Ninth Summit of the Americas commenced on Monday in Los Angeles, California, to discuss the pressing issue of asylum migration.
Focused on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future,” the Summit is taking place throughout the week, starting June 7 and ending on June 11, with 23 heads of state from countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador in attendance.
Invitations were sent out as late as May 18 to countries and some controversy has plagued the Summit as the United States declined to invite three key Latin American countries, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, after they failed to meet the requirements by the Inter-American Democratic Charter — a charter built to reaffirm and strengthen democratic institutions across the Americas. In light of this controversy, one of the most important invitees, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is not attending but rather sending Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Taking place alongside the Summit of the America’s is a caravan of migrants attempting to send a message by marching from Mexico to the US and arriving during the week of the summit.
What will be discussed at the Summit?
Just hours prior to the Summit, United States Vice President Kamala Harris announced the latest effort to curb migration from Central and Latin America with a $1.9 billion investment through private sector funding to boost job opportunities in Central America — new investments being a key discussion point at the Summit.
Harris had already secured $1.2 billion from the private sector last year and this new investment, it was announced Tuesday, will include additional funding from 10 other companies and bring the total to $3.2 billion.
Alongside all this, credit card giant Visa has committed to invest more than $270 million over five years in building one million businesses that would include 6.5 million people into the formal financial system in hard-pressed regions.
On Wednesday, the agenda has switched gears to focus on regional economic and health issues, with the Biden Administration set to announce plans to strengthen Latin America’s health systems.
The plan entails working with the Pan American Health Organization to provide more training to 500,000 public health, health science and medical workers over the next five years.
According to a senior administration official, US President Joe Biden will also propose an economic partnership for the western hemisphere with the intention to rebuild and rejuvenate existing trade agreements throughout the America’s.
Other programs expected to come out of the Biden Administration include a $300 million food security financing initiative and a new Caribbean climate partnership that is supposed to help Caribbean countries access low-carbon energy sources.
The discussion on Thursday will revolve around climate change while Friday’s talks will be dominated by migration. Topics surrounding migration that could be discussed Friday include more pathways to legal status, mechanisms to reunite families and more efficient and humane border controls.
President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador stated that a migration accord would be an important strategy to discuss at the event —a strategy Harris discussed last July, calling for secure and humane border management and more accessible legal status.
“[When] you speak about problems and it becomes part of a declaration, a summit as important as this, obviously the problem exists, the problem enters the consciousness of those who should be part of the solution,” said Lasso.
Talks of a migration accord reappeared in discussions with top diplomats from Colombia in October and Panama in April. Experts are stating the accord is mostly driven by the US and other countries that take in loads of migrants every year, such as Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru and Panama.
Leaders of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador will not be in attendance
The day prior to the summit, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced he would not be attending the event because of the United States’ decision on June 5 to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the summit over human rights abuses and a lack of a democracy.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador refused to attend the US hosted Summit of the Americas, and condemned US "hegemony" and its "old policy of interventionism" of "lack of respect". pic.twitter.com/PbBYiYfyj5
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) June 8, 2022
Other key migration states boycotting the event include Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Given Mexico and the United States’ close ties and collaboration on the topic of immigration, Obrardor’s attendance was key – his absence now considered a blow to the effectiveness of the summit.
While López Obrador at first agreed that countries with dictators should not be invited to the summit, he ultimately changed his mind and decided to boycott the event, sending Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard instead.
Summit of The Americas is a bust b/c region is a disaster.
Millions of Americans have fled these regimes. We’ve seen people get beaten, jailed & killed, families separated, properties stolen. So much suffering for decades.
Normalizing these dictators would be a slap in our face. https://t.co/UEmqk5kyK8
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) June 7, 2022
Upon arriving at the summit, Ebrard underlined that this action does not affect Mexico’s close ties with the US and reaffirmed that the President still plans on visiting Washington in July.
Yet despite this, during a news conference in Mexico City López Obrador expressed his disappointment in the Summit and critiqued its effectiveness.
“There cannot be a Summit of the America’s if all countries of the Americas cannot attend,” López Obrador said.”This is to continue the old interventionist policies, of lack of respect for nations and their people.”
A caravan of migrants marching to the US
On Monday, as many as 6,000 migrants — the majority from Venezuela — set off from Mexico with the intention of reaching the US during the Summit of the Americas.
The march’s aim, caravan organizer Luis Garcia Villagran explained, is to represent the various nationalities of people fleeing hardships in their home countries.
“These are countries collapsing from poverty and violence,” said Villagran. “We strongly urge those who attend the summit … to look at what is happening, and what could happen even more often in Mexico, if something is not done soon.”
As of Tuesday — the commencement of the Summit — the caravan was walking through Southern Mexico with local authorities showing no signs of stopping the march.
What is considered one of the largest migrant caravans of the year, these large (and small) caravans headed to the United States have become more frequent between the years 2018 and 2019.
Now, more than ever, US authorities are stopping migrants from crossing the border, especially after the pandemic limited travel in general.
Still, every year thousands of migrants flee to the US and other countries’ borders seeking asylum, even if many are turned away. This is causing many illegal crossings to take place as well as faulty border management at the US-Mexico border.
With the Summit of the Americas taking place this week to address these issues, effective solutions will hopefully be agreed upon and implemented to lessen migration tensions across the Americas.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com –In the Featured Photo: A border patrol riverine unit rescues a child stranded on the Rio Grande River Bank on September 24, 2013. Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Wikimedia.