Washington, Aug 30 (EFE).- The “Safe Mobility Initiative” began operating in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Guatemala in June as a six-month pilot project, and now the United States government hopes to expand it to other countries, Katie Tobin, Special Assistant to President Joe Biden on Border issues, said in an interview with EFE.
“We hope other countries will step forward and agree to host secure mobility offices or accept cases. We need all countries to play a part in this,” Tobin said.
The White House adviser didn’t say which countries the program would work in next, only that there are “ongoing” discussions as part of the Los Angeles Declaration, in which 21 nations pledged to improve regional migration management.
Biden’s priority, she said, is to expand opportunities for migrants and refugees to come to the United States legally rather than making the perilous journey through Colombia and up Central America on their own.
THOUSANDS OF APPLICANTS ARE WAITING
More than 38,000 people have applied for the program through the website movilidadsegura.org, a spokesman for the State Department told EFE.
However, as of Monday, only 2,100 of them had been able to start the asylum process in the United States, or 5.5% of all applicants.
Cubans, Haitians, and Venezuelans can apply from Colombia, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans from Costa Rica, and Guatemalans from their own country.
In addition to the United States, migrants and refugees can go to Spain and Canada, which have pledged to accept some asylum seekers.
Tobin said the Biden administration is evaluating the program’s operation with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which are helping to implement it.
“We are testing it, we’re seeing how it works, we’re ironing out the kinks. We’re also working in partnership, not only with governments but also with humanitarian actors. So we want to see how the pilot program works. Hopefully, it’s successful, and definitely we will want to expand it,” she said.
In addition to the Safe Mobility Initiative, the Biden administration has taken other steps to encourage legal migration and prevent thousands of people from crossing the border with Mexico on foot.
One of the programs allows nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to apply for a humanitarian permit to enter the United States, but only if they arrive by plane to US territory and have a contact who can prove they will help them adjust to the country.
In addition, the administration has developed a mobile application, “CBP One,” that allows migrants in Mexico to make appointments with US authorities to present their asylum cases. However, the app offers only 1,250 appointments daily, so available slots fill up quickly.
Beatriz Pascual Macias/ics/ar