Conflicts & War

Immigration focus of protests as Summit of the Americas opens

By Javier Romualdo and Guillermo Azabal

Los Angeles, US, Jun 8 (EFE).- Immigration was the main focus of protests across Los Angeles on Wednesday as leaders from across the continent gathered to open the 9th Summit of the Americas.

Most of the protests were lackluster, with small gatherings of people, and held away from the venue due to heavy security deployed before the arrival of the United States President Joe Biden and his counterparts.

In addition to calls for immigration regulation, both for asylum seekers and for those who have been in the US for decades with temporary permits, slogans were also heard criticizing the upcoming meeting between Biden and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and the absence of the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

This amalgamation of the various protests throughout the streets of downtown Los Angeles integrated what organizations and activists have dubbed the People’s Summit, to accommodate issues that they consider have not received the attention they deserve on the official summit’s agenda.

“It is very unfortunate that immigration is not being discussed at the highest level. They have no leadership,” Angélica Salas, executive director of one of the organizations calling the protests, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (Chirla), told EFE.

From early in the morning, dozens of protesters demanded a firm solution for the million people who live in the US under temporary permits, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status.

Seventy percent of people who benefit from these two programs come from Mexico or Central America.

The disappointment among the attendees due to the lack of measures was added to the lack of precision with which the governments are addressing the migration flows across the continent.

“Biden is going to announce a declaration on immigration and protection, but we don’t know what it will contain or which leaders are going to accept it. So they have failed us and he has wasted the opportunity,” Salas said.

Maira Matías, a woman born in Mexico who arrived at the age of seven and has been under temporary status for more than 20 years, summed up the feelings of many of those present.

“I want the president and Congress to take us into account. It is not fair to be in this limbo because we contribute to the US economy and we want a permanent solution now,” protested the “Dreamer,” as the undocumented migrants who arrived in US with their parents when they were very young are called.

The inaction of the US president on immigration was a repeated complaint of protesters such as Vladimir Carrasco, who worked on Biden’s electoral campaign.

“We fought hard to put him in the White House and he has let us down,” he said.

“The only difference between the Trump administration and the Biden administration is that [Biden] promised us to end racist measures such as Title 42 and continues to reinforce it,” added Carrasco about this rapid expulsion policy that was brought in under pandemic protocols during the term of Donald Trump, and is ongoing.

Biden was criticized in other protests around Los Angeles for his upcoming meeting with Bolsonaro during the summit.

Amazon Watch, among other non-profit organizations, coordinated a demonstration in front of Los Angeles City Hall in which they slammed the meeting between the presidents due to the Brazilian government’s lack of protection of the Amazon.

Elcio Filho Manchineri, advisor to the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, said he thought that if Biden meets with Bolsonaro, the Brazilian’s leadership will be reinforced and he will use it as a political argument.

The chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Darío Mejía, spoke through EFE to ask for responsibility and care for the Amazon with “real commitments, not with words” at the leaders’ meetings.

Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were not invited to the summit over US government concerns about a lack of democratic freedoms and human rights issues. In protest, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he would not attend.

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