U.S. and Mexican officials are discussing a new U.S. refugee program for some non-Mexican asylum seekers waiting in Mexico, four sources said, part of President Joe Biden’s attempts to create more legal avenues for migration.
The program would likely be open to Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan refugees in Mexico, the sources said. Migrants would need to show they were in Mexico before June 6 to qualify, one of the sources said.
The sources – a U.S. official, a Mexican official, and two people familiar with the matter who all spoke on condition of anonymity – stressed that the issue remained under discussion and no final decisions had been made. It was not clear how many people might benefit from such a program.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants from those four nations have passed through Mexico en route to the U.S. during the political and economic upheaval in recent years, straining resources in both countries and putting political pressure on Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in 2024.
The plan under discussion would allow qualifying migrants approved for refugee status to enter via the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which is only available to applicants abroad, the sources said. Unlike most migrants who claim asylum after entering the U.S., refugees receive immediate work authorization and government benefits such as housing and employment assistance.
Refugees using the U.S. resettlement program can apply to become permanent residents within one year, offering more stability than other options. To be approved, they must establish that they face persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
In a statement, Mexico’s foreign ministry said it is in constant communication with the U.S. about expanding labor mobility and refugee protections. To that end, it said it had held discussions over various programs and policies, while always safeguarding national sovereignty.
However, Mexico has not reached any agreement with the U.S., the ministry added.