LOS ANGELES — Leaders from across the Americas, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed on Friday what U.S. President Joe Biden called a “historic pledge” to ease the pressure of northward migration.
The agreement, the main achievement of the Summit of the Americas in California, commits Canada to spend $26.9 million this year to slow the flow of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection also includes a Canadian pledge to welcome an additional 4,000 migrants from the region by 2028, as well as a pre-existing plan to bring in an additional 50,000 agricultural workers from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean.
Canada is already a beacon of hope for migrants around the world, Trudeau said at his closing news conference when asked why a G7 country was welcoming so few additional newcomers.
Simply bringing in more and more people does not address the underlying issues of economic, social and governmental instability that are forcing people to pack up and leave in the first place, he said.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘We will continue to accept people.’ We have to, and we will, because this is the country we are,” Trudeau said.
“But we also need to make deliberate and targeted efforts to make sure people don’t feel pressured, that the only choice they have is to put themselves and their families at risk in order to leave their communities in their country.”
To that end, the government announced an additional $118 million for progressive initiatives to improve the lives of people where they already live in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This includes $67.9 million to promote gender equality; $31.5 million in health and pandemic response expenditures; $17.3 million for democratic governance and $1.6 million for digital access and anti-disinformation measures.
“Each of us makes commitments and recognizes the challenges we all share and the responsibilities that affect all of our nations,” Biden said earlier in the day, with the other 19 summit leaders standing on the stage behind him.
He blamed the growing migration pressure on the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by war in Ukraine and what he called the “unrest” caused by autocracies in the region.
Colombia, he said, hosts millions of refugees from Venezuela, while up to 10% of Costa Rica’s population is made up of migrants – a problem he says requires a collective approach for good. -being and health of the hemisphere.
“Our security is tied together in a way that I don’t think most people in my country fully understand, and maybe not in your country as well,” Biden said.
“Our common humanity demands that we take care of our neighbors by working together.”
The $26.9 million portion of Canada’s commitment will go towards improving integration and border management, protecting the rights of migrants, gender equality measures and combating against human smuggling.
The Los Angeles Declaration rests on four key pillars, Biden said: stability and assistance to communities, broader legal migration routes, humane management of migration, and a coordinated emergency response.
The White House said it seeks “to mobilize the entire region around bold actions that will transform our approach to managing migration in the Americas.”
It includes commitments from a range of Latin American and Caribbean countries on everything from economic stabilization and humanitarian aid to the “regularization” of migrants living illegally in host countries.
Colombia, for example, has already regularized 1.2 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees and has agreed to do the same for 1.5 million more by the end of the summer.
Unsurprisingly, the United States is doing the heavy lifting, including $25 million to support countries implementing new regularization programs, $314 million for stabilization efforts, and a $65 million pilot project. to support agricultural workers.
The Biden administration also pledges to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas over the next two years, three times the current resettlement rate, the White House said.
Along with funding and resettlement efforts, the United States plans to crack down on human trafficking operations, including a new campaign “on an unprecedented scale” to disrupt and dismantle criminal trafficking enterprises in Latin America.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau sat down with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who warmly welcomed him as he met with the congressional delegation from the summit.
“We can no longer imagine that we are islands or isolated from what is happening in the rest of the world – the pandemic has taught us that, climate change teaches us that,” Trudeau said.
“We all have a responsibility for each of us.”
As Friday drew to a close, Trudeau also sat down for separate bilateral meetings with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Luis Abinader, Prime Minister of the Dominican Republic.
But not all of his summit meetings were with small island nations or Latin American allies: On Thursday, he spent an hour with Biden, who accepted an invitation to visit Canada in the “coming months.”
He said Canada was in “full discussions” with the United States about Biden’s new “Partnership for Economic Prosperity,” a trade framework for the Americas, and that the two leaders had discussed a number pain points in Canada-US relations, including irritants like softwood lumber.
But they also discussed the possibility of working more closely together to ensure a reliable supply of critical minerals and rare earth elements, key ingredients in electronics and electric vehicles.
“The world is heavily dependent on a few countries that are not necessarily aligned with North American or other values,” he said.
“Canada is developing supply lines for lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and rare-earth elements – these are the kinds of things that demonstrate how partnerships between friends and allies can build a future best are so important.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 10, 2022.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version, based on incorrect information provided by officials, said Canada would spend nearly US$27 million this year to curb irregular migration from Latin America and the Caribbean.