300,000 US work visas set to be offered to Central Americans

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According to Mexico’s Interior Minister, Adan Augusto Lopez, the Biden administration is set to offer up to 300,000 US work visas to Mexicans and Central Americans. Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is due to visit Washington in July, and Lopez claims the US visa offer will be proposed.


During a speech while visiting the Mexican border town of Tijuana, where he met a group of business leaders, Lopez said: “Every day we’re talking with the American government.” 

“The American government agreed to first grant 300,000 temporary work visas, 150,000 of which will be for Mexicans or foreigners who are in Mexico today waiting for the possibility of migrating north. The other 150,000 will be split proportionally among Central American countries,” Lopez added.


Migrant Caravan 

News of potentially 300,000 US work visas being issued to Mexican and Central American migrants comes amid reports that a migrant caravan in southern Mexico is demanding a ‘corridor to the US border’.

An estimated 2,000 migrants have reportedly walked out of the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, forming a caravan. The group have said they are not interested in visas and permits that the Mexican government have tried to issue in an attempt to disperse the caravan , but instead they want buses to the US border.

This latest group comes after an even larger caravan left for the US during the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Some 7,000 of the reported 15,000 people in the caravan were issued with temporary documents and transit visas, which allowed them to board buses and continue through Mexico.

The documents usually give migrants the opportunity to regularize their status in Mexico or leave the country. The Mexican government has been issuing such documents since October 2021 to periodically reduce the pressure caused by rising migrant numbers amassing in the south.


US border travel

However, rather than traveling to other states to normalize their immigration status in areas less congested than Tapachula, migrants have been using the documents to head straight for the US southern border.

Migrants of the latest group to gather in Mexico say that authorities in other parts of the country have not respected the documents that have been issued and many were forced to return to the south.

One of the group’s self-appointed leaders, Jonathan Ávila – a Venezuelan, said: “The march doesn’t want a 30-day permit. The march doesn’t want a humanitarian visa. We want organizations and the government ... to set up a humanitarian corridor.”

“We want buses to carry us to the US border. The visa doesn’t work. With the visa they return us, they tear it up,” Mr Ávila added.


Migrants blocked

Reports have emerged that migrants from the recent smaller group, who have been issued documents, have been blocked by Mexican authorities in the north after joining the larger caravan. Meanwhile, migrants in other smaller groups did manage to cross the border into America.

In a recent news conference, Héctor Martínez Castuera - a high-ranking official in Mexico’s National Immigration Institute – said: “In the border city of Piedras Negras, the intention of the temporary documents was for migrants to legalize their status in Mexico — not travel to the US. Migrants have been told as much, but many decided to head to the US nonetheless.”

Frustrated migrants have long complained about Mexico’s strategy of trying to contain them in the southern part of the country, where they claim that there are ‘fewer job opportunities’.

Many migrants have been left with the option of applying for asylum in Mexico. However, most are ineligible and those that have applied have reportedly overwhelmed the system, so there are huge delays.

Melissa Vertiz of the Working Group on Immigration Policy, said: “Mexico’s National Guard must stop working as immigration authorities and allow migrants to pursue normalizing their status in other parts of Mexico, not be confined to the south.”


Risk of violence

Meanwhile, Mexican Senator Emilio Álvarez Icaza, warned that the situation in southern Mexico was a ‘ticking time bomb that could result in violence. He said: “There’s no awareness of the humanitarian crisis the southern border is experiencing. There’s no sense of the dimensions of what happens here.”

Since Biden took office, US immigration numbers at the southern border have surged. Many more migrant caravans have formed and began traveling to the US in the hope of more lenient US border policies than those enforced during the Trump administration.

Biden’s handling of the so-called ‘southern border crisis’ has been widely criticized by Republicans, while Vice President, Kamala Harris, has also come under heavy fire for her seeming ‘absence’ amid the crisis – despite being appointed by Biden as US immigration czar.


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