US, Spain Collaboration on Migration Looms Large as Biden, Sánchez Hold Talks at White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - President Joe Biden of the United States and Spanish Primer Pedro Sanchez will hold talks on Friday. Their countries are collaborating with Canada in order to create migration hubs throughout Latin America for asylum seekers who are fleeing violence and poverty in their own countries.

Both leaders will also discuss climate change, Russia's ongoing invasion in Ukraine and other topics. The White House talks will be dominated by efforts to collaborate between the U.S., Spain and other countries on asylum processing. This is because the Biden administration has just announced new immigration measures after the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. These changes could have a major impact on how migrants reach the U.S./Mexico border.

The new initiatives are intended to crackdown on illegal border crossings and open up legal paths to encourage migrants to apply online for asylum from wherever they are instead of making a dangerous, often fatal journey to the border. If caught crossing the southern border illegally, they cannot return to the U.S. for five years. They will also be prosecuted if they try. Migrants will also be prohibited from requesting asylum at the border, if they have not sought protection in the country they passed through or applied online.

The expansion of the legal pathway includes the creation of up to 100 processing centers throughout the Western Hemisphere, including Colombia and Guatemala. These are places where migrants can apply to go to the U.S.A., Spain, or Canada.

The White House was extremely fortunate to have Spain and Canada agree to accept asylum seekers from Latin America. It also reinforces the Biden administration’s argument that migration is a global issue that requires a global solution, much like refugee crises in Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

More and more migrants from countries far away from Latin America are arriving at the U.S.'s southern border, including families and children travelling alone. In contrast, thirty years ago illegal crossings from Mexico were almost exclusively made by single adults.

Spain, as many other countries in the world, is in need of workers. It will be able select migrants with skills that are needed by the country. The Spanish Ministry has stated that the pathway is only for those who already have international protection status. The migrants that Spain accepts must be refugees, and treated the same as the Syrian asylum seekers who have come via Turkey.

The centers are yet to start operating. Last month, plans were announced for processing centers in Guatemala and Colombia. The centers are expected to be able to handle thousands of applications per month once they start operating. The centers will be run by United Nations organisations, but U.S. officials are also present to assist with the processing of applications.

Biden said this week that there could be chaos at the border for a time. His administration wants to discourage migrants who pay smugglers to help them travel to the U.S. The officials hope to restore order at the U.S. Mexico border by cracking down on the border as well as opening other routes to the U.S.

Title 42 was a Trump Administration initiative that came into effect March 2020, amid a global pandemic. The Title 42 restrictions allowed border officials the ability to reject migrants in order to stop COVID-19 from spreading. There were some concerns that the policies had been put in place to merely keep people away.

Title 42 has been used to deny asylum more than 2.8 millions times. However, there were no legal consequences. This encouraged migrants to try again to enter the U.S. The restrictions and the public health emergency ended officially on Thursday night.

Biden and Sanchez, two NATO allies, are also expected to place Russia's invasion in Ukraine high on their agenda.