WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
6 Jun 2022 | Press Release

Summit of the Americas: Urgent Need for a Human Rights Centered Migration Policy

WOLA experts available for analysis and interview

Migration is expected to be a central topic of discussion at the ninth Summit of the Americas, which is taking place between June 6 and 10 in Los Angeles, California. While discussing a hemispheric declaration on the issue, the Biden administration has also been negotiating bilateral arrangements on migration and protection with individual governments. These negotiations have been taking place against the backdrop of increasing migration flows in the region in which vulnerable populations escape hardships at home in the hope of finding safety and economic opportunities.

On the sidelines of the Summit on June 7, WOLA’s Vice President for Programs Maureen Meyer will be participating in “From Deterrence to Integration: Civil Society Voices on Migration Policy Challenges and Good Practices in the Americas”. The event, co-hosted by leading regional organizations, will bring together experts and civil society actors to provide regional perspectives on harmful anti-immigration policies that have led to human rights abuses and incentivized irregular travel, while also pinpointing best practices in accessing protection and expanding legal pathways.

Demographics, routes, and destination countries for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have radically changed in recent years. Migration to Latin American countries from within and outside the continent has increased, and the people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are no longer predominantly single adults from Mexico and Central America. The crisis in Venezuela has expelled some six million people, adding to the one million Colombians that have fled violence in their country since 2015. In 2021, Mexico received over 130,000 asylum requests, the third-highest number of any country in the world, a similar amount to the crossings registered in the Darién Gap, a dangerous route linking South and Central America, this same year –a sharp increase from the 283 registered a decade ago in 2011.

The numbers hide the tragedies of hundreds of thousands of families, children, and adults that have been forced to flee their homes and experience the trauma of violence or other life-threatening circumstances, the rupture of leaving their past lives behind, and the uncertainty of where and how to find refuge. Often, they face serious human rights violations and crimes, struggle to obtain protection or legal status, or face discrimination and difficulties working and accessing basic services in their new homes, forcing some to travel again in search of safety and economic wellbeing.

In response to migration flows, governments in Latin America and the U.S. have been shifting their policies and practices through new visa requirements, border security and enforcement efforts, cooperation to address the root causes of migration, humanitarian assistance, and programs focused on protection and other legal pathways. But the U.S. government’s use or support of strategies such as Title 42, border militarization, and enforcement policies based primarily on detention and expulsion increase human suffering and abuse, and do not sustainably or constructively address forced migration.

Maureen Meyer, Vice President for Programs at WOLA, said:

“Migration trends in the Western Hemisphere have changed significantly over the past decade. While there is growing collaboration, regional governments have yet to develop a coordinated approach to address this high level of human mobility.”

“The Summit presents an important opportunity for the U.S. and other governments in the region to commit to reversing inhumane and counterproductive enforcement policies and put people at the center of a sustainable, protection-centered, and rights-respecting response to migration.”

Background Information

Guiding principles for a regional framework on migration and protection in the Americas

Struggling to Survive: Plight of Asylum Seekers at Mexico’s Southern Border Highlights Need for Regional Action (June 2, 2022)

Beyond the U.S.-Mexico Border: Migration Trends in the Americas, Explained (May 26, 2022)

Three Consequences of Keeping Title 42 in Place at the U.S.-Mexico Border (May 23, 2022)

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: press@wola.org