July 19, 2024

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is meeting with senior Latin American officials in Guatemala on Tuesday as part of the Biden administration’s push to get countries in the region to ramp up enforcement of their borders and expand legal ways to migrate.

President Biden has faced criticism for his handling of the southern border, and the issue is a key concern for many voters in this year’s presidential election. U.S. officials have, in recent years, increasingly turned to international partnerships to help them keep large numbers of migrants from reaching the southern border.

The United States relies heavily on Mexico, its closest partner on migration, to control the number of people who are destined for the southern border. In late December, Mr. Blinken and Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, went to Mexico to discuss increased enforcement during a month in which U.S. border agents had encounters with more than 250,000 migrants. On some days in December, 10,000 stops were made.

Since then, the number of migrants arriving at the southern border has dropped dramatically. In February, agents made around 140,000 apprehensions. In March, there were more than 137,000 apprehensions, and the April count is expected to be even lower, at around 129,000, according to a person familiar with the statistics who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss figures yet to be finalized.

The downward trend of the border numbers could help Mr. Biden make the case that he is taking border security seriously.

The meeting on Tuesday is part of continuing talks connected to the Los Angeles Declaration, a 2022 agreement signed by the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and other countries. The agreement stipulates that each country was responsible for securing their borders and that the countries would promote new legal migration efforts.

Kristie Canegallo, the acting deputy homeland security secretary, said that the compact was important to “providing a framework and shared goals.”

U.S. officials point to the creation of so-called safe mobility offices in countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador and Costa Rica, as a direct result of the agreement. The offices have helped the Biden administration increase refugee processing from the region.

On Monday, the United States placed visa restrictions on executives from Colombian companies that transport migrants via sea, saying that the movements were “designed primarily to facilitate irregular migration to the United States.”

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