Put Migrant Protections At Heart Of US Policy, Rights Groups Urge

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Migrant rights groups in Guatemala, the United States and beyond are calling on the White House to adopt a rights-based approach to migration ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming visit to Guatemala and Mexico. US President Joe Biden tasked Harris with leading diplomatic efforts in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to help stem migration to the country’s southern border after children and families arrived in large numbers earlier this year. The Biden administration’s focus so far has been on addressing the “root causes” of migration from Central America, but migration advocates say prioritising the use of security forces and expulsions to block asylum seekers means that years of failed US policies are continuing. “The focus so far has been militarisation,” said Silvia Raquec, migration programme coordinator at the Pop N’oj Association, an Indigenous-focused non-profit group in Guatemala. “The focus needs to be on regularisation mechanisms and the safety and protection of migrants,” she told Al Jazeera. Harris’s trip Harris is scheduled to arrive late on Sunday in Guatemala, where she will meet with President Alejandro Giammattei and other parties on Monday. She will then travel to Mexico, meeting on Tuesday with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador before returning home. Migration and its root causes will be central to Harris’s agenda on her first official trip abroad, but officials are also expected to discuss private sector investment, aid, and economic development. In Guatemala, talks will also focus on corruption. Alianza Americas, a transnational network of 50 migrant-led organisations, and other regional and Guatemalan groups welcome Harris’s stated interest in addressing the structural root causes of migration. At a press conference on Thursday in Guatemala City, they presented a series of recommendations concerning the rule of law, socioeconomic conditions, multi-faceted violence, climate justice and other issues that they say need to be tackled. a public health directive that allows the US to immediately expel most migrants and asylum seekers at the border – is an urgent priority, said Abel Nunez, Alianza Americas’ vice president and executive director of the Central American Resource Centre in Washington, DC. The administration of former President Donald Trump began using Title 42 last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Biden has continued to use it to expel most migrants and asylum seekers at the border. The policy prevents people from requesting asylum or accessing any other US immigration proceedings. Title 42 expulsions to Nuevo Laredo, in northern Mexico, are increasing kidnappings and violence against migrants and asylum seekers, Human Rights First and other US-based rights groups reported last month. “They are using it as a wall. It is a virtual wall,” Nunez told Al Jazeera.

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