Notwithstanding April’s reputation as “the cruelest month”, immigration policy largely skated free of spring’s torments. Instead, we saw the seeds of progress sprout on regional migration collaboration at the national and local levels, long overdue health care access granted to DACA recipients, and a farmworker organizer appointed to run Biden’s reelection campaign. For more information on these developments and more, please continue reading.
Centering Local Solutions at the Cities Summit of the Americas
The first-ever Cities Summit of the Americas (CSOA) just wrapped. The U.S. government-led effort convened city, state, municipal, and regional leaders from throughout the Western Hemisphere to focus on shared challenges and opportunities, including climate change and migration.
As part of the official agenda, Emerson Collective joined with our partners at the Climate Migration Council and the Mayors Migration Councilto center innovative city-led solutions to manage historic levels of human displacement throughout the Americas. We designed and co-sponsored the closing plenary session on Friday afternoon, which was dedicated to migration and displacement and featured a keynote address by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. And we developed and co-led a generative roundtable focused on the intersection of climate change and migration.
On full display in those sessions and throughout the Summit was the pragmatism with which mayors and municipal leaders approach the urgent challenges facing their cities. As migration flows burgeon throughout the hemisphere, cities are grappling with resource issues related to housing, education, and health care. Unlike national politicians, local leaders can’t play politics with people’s lives, so they innovate and generate solutions.
For example, Bogota, the Colombian capital, now hosts over 500,000 Venezuelan migrants. In response, the city pioneered Centros INTEGRATE, places for returning Colombians and displaced Venezuelans to receive socioeconomic integration services. Now part of a national strategy, and operating through coordinated efforts between local and national authorities, these Centros INTEGRATE represent a first-of-its-kind effort in Latin America.
Investing in and improving migration management and integration processes through programs like Centros INTEGRATE will be critical to effectively respond to accelerating human displacement. The Summit provided a unique opportunity to share these types of innovative solutions with other leaders and demonstrate why funding these types of solutions are good investments.
The inaugural CSOA was a bold statement about the centrality of cities in addressing global migration challenges; it was also a call to action for national governments and multilateral development banks to drive new, innovative financing down to the local level.
What Happens When Title 42 Ends on May 11
In our February Update, we highlighted the Biden Administration’s welcome announcement to terminate the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, eliminating the legal foundation for Title 42’s border controls. As a reminder, Title 42 enables the government to adopt emergency measures in response to a public health crisis. That authority was cynically employed by the prior Administration as a means of expelling migrants arriving at our southern border without providing them a chance to seek asylum. Despite a ruling that found the border restrictions to be unlawful, the current Administration has been forced to keep Title 42 in place by a court order from a separate lawsuit filed by 19 Republican-controlled states.
As May 11 now approaches, however, the Administration fears a surge of migration at the Southern border could overwhelm their processing capabilities without the Title 42 expulsion authority. In preparation to manage new flows, on April 27, the Departments of State and Homeland Security jointly announcedtheir post-May 11 plans, some controversial, some very positive.
On the controversial side, their plans include implementing the problematic proposed asylum regulation (further expanded upon in our March Update) and a significant expansion of expedited removals.
On the positive side, the Administration continues to build out new pathways for people to lawfully migrate to the U.S., including a doubling of refugee resettlement slots from the Western Hemisphere and an expansion of family reunification parole process to nationals of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These new measures are in addition to the groundbreaking parole program the U.S. adopted in January authorizing the admission of 30,000 individuals per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
One of the most encouraging developments was the fact that the policies were announced jointly by the Secretary of State and Homeland Security. Both substantively and symbolically, that signaled clear recognition that a border-only approach is insufficient and that we must collaborate with regional partners to humanely manage and order migration flows.
To that end, the Administration announced an historic partnership with several governments to open regional processing centers across the Western Hemisphere to facilitate access to lawful pathways. There are many operational details to be resolved, but if successful these centers could both ease the pressure at our southern border and provide intending migrants with real options and information rather than just hope or the promises of smugglers.
As we’ve said many times, given the scale of human displacement in the Hemisphere, the Administration faces significant operational challenges in humanely managing the reception and processing of border crossers. Without Congress’s collaboration, they are pushing the envelope on administrative and diplomatic measures and finding support for this approach by the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) unveiled a four pronged plan which echoes the need for regional partnership and mitigating drivers of migration as central to better migration management. The Menendez Plan also emphasizes policies that President Biden can pursue without Congress.
We strongly applaud these efforts to build a new migration and protection paradigm that creates more legal pathways and makes them more accessible, but we will continue to monitor the impacts of any restrictions on access to asylum.
Proposed Expansion of the ACA to Include DACA Recipients
In a piece of very welcome news, on April 24 the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to expand health care for DACA recipients, providing them with access to health care through Affordable Care Act Marketplaces, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declared in announcing this expansion, “DACA recipients, like all Dreamers, are Americans, plain and simple. The United States is their home, and they should enjoy the same access to health care as their fellow Americans.”
This is great — and overdue — news for our friends and neighbors with DACA status who have been unfairly excluded from coverage under several key public health insurance programs. If the rule is finalized as proposed, it could enable 129,000 previously uninsured DACA recipients to finally receive health care coverage. Many individuals and organizations have tirelessly fought to eliminate these arbitrary exclusions. This victory is an important reminder of the value of persistence — — change doesn’t come easy.
Poll Results and Leaning into Immigration on the Campaign Trail
While major progress on immigration policy will remain stalled until Congress acts, a new survey of likely voters located in 2024 presidential battleground states is a sharp reminder of how frustrated America is by the paralysis. Jointly sponsored by The Immigration Hub and Voto Latino, the poll shows voter hunger for a balanced solution that is both secure and humane, strongly supporting both border security and a pathway to citizenship.
The survey shows that voters disapprove of the way both parties are handling immigration but hit Democrats harder because, while the extremism of the Republican position is well-known, voters don’t know where Democrats stand on the issue. Conventional wisdom once erroneously held that talking about immigration on the campaign trail was a losing issue for Democrats. This survey demonstrates yet again that silence is more harmful than leaning into tough problems with concrete solutions.
The thrilling announcement that our dear friend Julie Chávez Rodríguez, granddaughter of labor icon César Chávez, will manage President Biden’s reelection campaign suggests a growing understanding by Democrats that this issue could be more strength than weakness. Julie and the farmworkers she has worked with for decades have been on the frontlines of advancing pragmatic immigration solutions that uphold America’s core values. We hope to see that clarity reflected in the Democratic platform as the campaign season unfolds.
This April reminded us to celebrate every success while remaining doggedly persistent in promoting a more humane and dignified immigration system. This work is too often heartbreaking and always urgent. But the setbacks pale in comparison to the reward and inspiration that results from helping people live safer, richer lives. Si se puede.
Managing Director of Immigration