• Briefers provide an overview of ongoing U.S. efforts to humanely manage migration at our southwest border while enforcing U.S. laws and consequences for not using the lawful pathways expanded by this administration. They also discuss U.S. collaboration with our partners in the Western Hemisphere to address the root causes of migration and bolster our efforts under the Los Angeles Declaration for Migration and Protection — a migration pact signed in 2022 by President Biden and 20 other leaders across the region.




MODERATOR:  Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  My name is Miranda Patterson, and I am one of the – and I am the moderator for today’s briefing.  Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Katie Tobin, Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Los Angeles Declaration at the National Security Council; as well as Blas Nuñez-Neto, who serves as the Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and finally, Eric Jacobstein, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America, Cuba, and Migration at the State Department.  They will be providing an overview of an ongoing U.S. efforts to humanely manage migration at our southwest border as well as U.S. collaboration with our partners in the Western Hemisphere to address the root causes of migration.   

Just a reminder that this discussion is on the record, and we will post a transcript and video of the briefing on our website,, later today.  For the journalists joining us view Zoom, please take a moment now to rename yourself in a chat window with your name, outlet, country.   

I would now like to invite Ms. Tobin to begin with any opening remarks she may have. 

MS TOBIN:  Okay.  Thank you so much.  Thank you for hosting us today.  It’s a pleasure to be here.  I would just start by just speaking a little bit about the ways the Biden and Harris administration has addressed the challenge of migration in the Western Hemisphere.  We view this very much as a regional challenge, really a global challenge, and something that’s a shared responsibility.   

It’s for that reason that President Biden and Vice President Harris have really focused on investing in our partnerships with our neighbors across the Western Hemisphere really since day one.  This has manifested in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection that President Biden mobilized leaders to sign in June of 2022, 21 leaders total.  And really this reflects, I think, the way that President Biden addressed all global and regional challenges through thoughtful diplomacy, by building partnerships, bringing people together.  That is precisely the way that we’ve been approaching the challenge of migration.   

My mission, my work in the National Security Council, is to lead some of these diplomatic efforts alongside my colleagues to implement and realize the goals of the Los Angeles Declaration, which focuses really on stabilizing populations where they are, making it easier for them to rebuild their lives where they are; standing legal pathways across the region, not just to the United States but to places where they can reunite with families, obtain a job, seek protection throughout the hemisphere; and then to collectively, humanely manage our borders.  I’ll speak to all three of these aspects of our work.   

The first example I wanted to give, and something that we’re really proud of, is the launching of the Safe Mobility Offices initiative in June of last year.  This is something that Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken jointly announced.  And we announced it – this is important – alongside several other countries: Canada, Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, and most recently Ecuador.  This is a shared initiative because we have a shared goal of expanding legal pathways. My colleague, Eric, will speak more to how we’ve been implementing this initiative, which is to say that I think we’re actually setting – establishing a model that the rest of the world is looking at.  And we’re proud of that and have every intention to grow it.  

We are also working closely with countries like Panama and Colombia to address the humanitarian challenge in the Darién Gap, really what’s been considered the most dangerous migratory corridor in the world.  I had the opportunity to travel there, both in September of this past year and again in December, to work hand-in-hand with our partners in Colombia and Panama on how we can address this challenge together.   

Two concrete ways in which we’re approaching this is in Panama supporting the government there to increase repatriations of people that arrive to the Darién and don’t have a legal basis to remain.  We applaud Panama stepping up and creating the consequence, and we are looking at ways that we can continue to support them.   

In Colombia, we have a shared interest in giving people an alternative to go through the Darién Gap, and so we’ve been working hand-in-glove with the Colombians on the expansion of legal pathways.  It’s a gamechanger that Colombia has signed on to the SMO initiative, because the more we can encourage Venezuelans and other migrants in Colombia that have an intention to go north to go to a Safe Mobility Office instead of paying a smuggler to go through the jungle and potentially lose their life that, that’s something that we have a very common interest in doing.   

I want to speak last about Mexico, and I had the opportunity to travel with Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary Blinken, and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall on the 27th of December.  But I will say that for myself and for my – for the Homeland Security Advisor, this is our eighth trip to Mexico just in 2023.  I mention this just because I think it underscores just how dynamic and close our partnership is with Mexico, and we foster that and strengthen it through regular dialogues at all levels.   

President Biden and President López Obrador speak frequently.  They most recently did in San Francisco at the APEC Summit.  They spoke again on the phone on the 21st of December.  We have been, I think, doing really big and important things as partners with Mexico to address the challenge.  We are two of the top destination countries for people that are displaced and fleeing their countries in the Western Hemisphere.  Mexico has received over 2 million migrants just last year.  So this is truly something that Mexico and the U.S. are experiencing together.   

And so one of the initiatives that we launched in partnership with Mexico last year was the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan Initiative in – almost exactly one year today.  And we saw tremendous results when you combine the expansion of lawful pathways with swift returns.  We saw such an incredibly significant reduction in flows to our shared border. 

We have also partnered in new ways with Mexico in the last year on addressing the root causes of migration.  It’s something both President Biden and President López Obrador have a real strong interest and conviction in the need to invest in root causes.  And so we have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding between our development agency, USAID, their development agency, AMEXCID, and we have continued to expand that partnership in Central America and hopefully elsewhere in the hemisphere. 

And then just to note, both the U.S. and Mexico have recently started conducting repatriations of Venezuelans that did not have a legal basis to remain in our countries.  So in parallel and in partnership, we’re working very closely with Mexico.  We look forward to hosting them again very soon here in Washington.   

But just to say in closing, the challenge of migration will never be fixed by the U.S. and Mexico alone, at least in the Western Hemisphere, so we will continue to work to strengthen the partnerships with all 22 countries of the L.A. Declaration and really the entire hemisphere.   

Thank you so much for the time, and I will pass this now to my colleagues. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  Thank you very much, Katie and Eric, for being here with me, and also to those of you listening, good to see some familiar faces.  As I think everybody knows, we have recently experienced challenges on our border.  In the month of December, we saw elevated flows across our southern border with Mexico that led us to temporarily close a number of border ports of entry.  Those are not decisions we take lightly.  We do fully recognize and understand the economic impact that those decisions have on both countries as well as on border communities where people cross back and forth on a regular basis.  We are pleased to have been able to reopen all of those ports of entry over the last two weeks in response to what had been a decrease in border encounters in the new year.  That appears to be holding thus far. 

We deeply appreciate the Government of Mexico’s shared commitment to working to address these flows, and our Secretary, along with Secretary Blinken and the Homeland Security Advisor Ms. Sherwood-Randall was recently in Mexico and had a series of meetings with the president and his cabinet to talk about how we can continue to build on those efforts both to impose consequences on individuals who are crossing both of our borders unlawfully and also to provide legal options and pathways for individuals to come to both of our countries to work or seek protection. 

As I think everybody knows, we continue to deliver strengthened consequences on our southern border.  We have implemented circumvention of lawful pathways rules which places what we believe are some common-sense conditions on asylum eligibility for individuals for cross unlawfully, even as we have continued to significantly expand the lawful options that people have to come to the United States.   

In conjunction with these efforts, we have also significantly streamlined and increased our ability to use expedited removal, which is the main tool available under our Title 8 immigration authorities for the U.S. Government to impose quick consequences on individuals who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. 

We are putting record numbers of people through the expedited removal process; and as a result, since May 12th when our public health emergency was lifted in Title 42, the public health emergency authority stopped being in place at the border, we have undertaken more than 482,000 returns, repatriations, and removals since then.  These are removals to countries all over the world, and it represents a record for the period of time that we are talking about here. 

It’s important to note as well that over the course of this administration we have actually removed, returned, or expelled the majority of the people that have been encountered on our southwest border.  I think that’s a data point that often doesn’t get highlighted enough, and that reflects our ongoing commitment to strengthen the consequences in place at the border.   

We have been working night and day with our foreign partners to increase our ability to repatriate individuals who are encountered on our border and who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States.  That includes a significant increase in charter flights to countries all over our hemisphere.  It includes, as Katie noted, the resumption of direct repatriation flights from the United States to Venezuela – something that Mexico is currently doing as well.  It also includes charter flights to countries throughout the world.  We are in the midst of operating our first significant charter flight to India for Indian nationals who, again, have not established a legal basis to remain in the United States.  We’ve operated flights to countries like Mauritania, Senegal, and other countries really all over the world.  

Again, I think it is important to note that as we strengthen those consequences, we have demonstrated our commitment to providing lawful options for people to come.  That includes our CBP One mobile application at the border, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of people to schedule safe, orderly appointments to present at a port of entry.  It includes some of our humanitarian parole programs, including for nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela that have shown to be effective in terms of channeling some of those flows into a legal and lawful, safe, orderly means. 

And as my colleague Eric talked about, it includes our commitment to finding options throughout the region for individuals to access, again, legal pathways to protection. 

It is important to note that we are doing all of this in the context of an immigration system that is fundamentally broken.  Congress has not updated our immigration laws and our asylum laws in decades.  And we continue to call on our members of Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to update these statutes and address some of the infirmities in our immigration system that are contributing to what we are seeing on the border.  We are encouraged by the bipartisan conversations that are taking place in the United States Senate, and we encourage our colleagues in the House to also come together, again, on a bipartisan basis, to resolve these issues.   

The bottom line here is that we have seen these surges in migration now taking place for more than a decade under administrations of presidents from both political parties.  Presidents from both political parties, including our own President Biden, have sought to deal with these challenges using executive actions.  But there’s a limit to what can be done via executive action, given the state of our immigration system and our immigration laws.  And so we, again, reiterate our call on Congress to come together and help us once and for all address this challenge on our border in a bipartisan way, because this is not an issue that either party can tackle on its own.   

With that, I will turn it over to Eric.  Thank you.   

MR JACOBSTEIN:  Great.  Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks to the Foreign Press Center for hosting, and it’s great to be here with Katie and Blas as well.   

As noted, the U.S. Government’s engaged in a comprehensive long-term effort to address the challenges of irregular migration and displacement in the Western Hemisphere.  From the State Department, we collaborate with our partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, civil society, with international organizations, to provide safe and lawful pathways for migrants to address the root causes of irregular migration, to advance safe, orderly, and humane migration management, to support integration efforts, and also to provide protection for those who need it.   

Late last year, President Biden announced nearly $485 million in additional humanitarian aid that responds to the needs of refugees, migrants, and other vulnerable populations.  This funding advanced goals – advances the goals of the Los Angeles Declaration, which Katie discussed, and the idea is to foster responsibility sharing that addresses regional migration challenges, provides stability aid to affected communities, expands lawful pathways, and promotes humane migration policies, essentially addressing the root cause of these issues before individuals migrate in the first place.   

The U.S. is proud to be the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance in the Western Hemisphere.  In the past two years, we’ve provided more than 2.4 billion in humanitarian assistance in the region and nearly $3.7 billion in development, economic, security, and health assistance across the entire Western Hemisphere.  In addition to our funding to support safe, orderly, and humane migration and to provide protection to vulnerable migrants, as Katie and Blas mentioned, our Safe Mobility Offices throughout the region facilitate expedited refugee processing via the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and provide information referrals to humanitarian parole, family reunification, and to labor programs.   

So the Safe Mobility initiative, which is really truly innovative, is one of the many ways that we’re facilitating access to lawful migration pathways, including the family reunification program and our expansion of H-2B labor visas.  We’re working with partners in Colombia, Costa Rica, in Ecuador and Guatemala who’ve stood up these innovative new Safe Mobility Offices.   

So individuals who are seeking international protection and other lawful pathways into the U.S. have many options, including Safe Mobility Offices, but beyond these offices, including refugee resettlement, humanitarian parole, family reunification, labor pathways, and seeking asylum in host countries, as well as various support provided by international organizations and NGOs, many of which the U.S. is supporting.  So together, these initiatives are truly the largest expansion of lawful pathways to the United States in decades.  Our message is clear:  Take advantage of lawful pathways rather than make a dangerous journey north, where we will continue to robustly enforce our border.   

I also wanted to touch on an issue that is quite prominent and a top priority for us in the administration’s efforts to manage migration: charter flight companies that have offered flights to Nicaragua and charge extortion-level prices that put migrants onto a dangerous overland path north to the U.S. border.  While these migrants predominantly come from the Caribbean, from Cuba in particular, others come from Africa and elsewhere.  Many of these migrants lack the legal basis for entering or staying in the United States, and they’re wasting significant personal resources attempting to enter unlawfully, putting themselves and their families at risk on a dangerous, uncertain journey.   

So to combat the exploitation of charter flight companies, on November 23rd, Secretary Blinken announced a new visa restriction policy, which is targeting individuals running these charter flights into Nicaragua predominantly for irregular migration.  This is something that has been really critical for us and where we’ve seen a reduction as a result of these new consequences.  To ensure their safety and the safety of their family and their loved ones, we urge all those forced to migrate and flee their homes to seek information from official U.S. Government sources about all the programs and options available to them, rather than embark on an expensive, uncertain, and dangerous journey north.   

So thanks again for the opportunity to join, and we’ll turn it back to the moderator.  Thank you.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you, all, for those opening remarks.  Now we’ll take some questions.  For those of you in the room, if you have a question, please just raise your hand and wait to be called on and state your name as well as your media outlet and project your voice.  A reminder for those journalists that are joining us via Zoom:  Please be sure that your screen name includes your name, outlet, and country.  To ask your question, just click on the “raised hand” icon and indicate that you have a question and turn your video on too if you’d like.   

And with that, we’ll start with some journalists in the room.  We’ll go right here to the second row, the gentleman.   

QUESTION:  Thank you.  My name Jim Cason.  I write for a newspaper that’s published in Mexico called La Jornada.  And my question is a two-parter.  You all referenced the trip that the Secretary of State, Secretary of Homeland Security took with the White House to Mexico.  The Mexican president has actually responded and said he put some proposals on the table that I’m sure you’re familiar with.  The – lots more development aid, legalization for undocumented people in this country, lifting statements on Venezuela, and suspending sanctions on Cuban.  All of those except Cuba, the President cannot do without any additional actions.  But for Mr. Jacobstein, it would be possible for the President to restore some of the measures that President Obama put in place that would significantly ease the situation in Cuba.  And so my question is – first question is: are you taking AMLO’s proposals seriously?  And what is your response vis-à-vis Cuba?    

And the second question is really about Mexico, and the real problem – as you all referenced – right now, is political problem.  You have a lot of people coming in to figure out how to stem that.  What more would you like Mexico to do right now to help limit the number of people arriving at Mexico’s northern border?  Thank you.   

MR JACOBSTEIN:  Great, thanks.  I can start on – with regard to root causes and Cuba.  Really appreciate the question.  I’ll start on root causes.  President Biden is committed to providing $4 billion over four years to address the root causes of migration from Central America, and this has included collaboration – close collaboration – with the Mexican Government, including on a program known as Sembrando Oportunidades, in which our U.S. Agency for International Development and the Mexican international agency have collaborated closely, particularly in Honduras, on educational opportunities for youth to ensure that individuals have opportunities in their home countries. 

There’s a real opportunity coming up this weekend.  Bernardo Arévalo, the president-elect of Guatemala, will take office on Sunday, and we feel like there will be new opportunities for the U.S. and Mexico to collaborate in a trilateral fashion with Guatemala in addressing these root causes.   

So we absolutely appreciate all the efforts from Mexico.  A great deal is being done here from the administration.  Would also note that Vice President Harris has done incredible work in promoting investment in northern Central America through a program known as Central America Forward, which has generated $4.2 billion in investment in northern Central America, and I think there’s lots more opportunities to collaborate on that. 

With regard to Cuba, in May 2022 President Biden announced a series of measures to support the Cuban people.  And the bottom line for our Cuba policy is that we want to support the Cuban people while holding the regime accountable.  And these measures include new opportunities for individuals to send remittances, getting rid of caps on those remittances, new remittances for non-family members.  It includes a certain easing on requirements related to travel outside of Havana and other travel categories, and also forthcoming regulations related to the Cuban private sector.  So we very much appreciate the opportunity to continue to work together to support the Cuban people and to work with Mexico on all these important issues.   

And will turn to other colleagues on other asks related to Mexico.  

MS TOBIN:  Sure.  Happy to take that question.  I think one of the reasons – you mentioned what more would we want Mexico to do.  Part of the reason we’re in such constant dialogue – in person, on the phone – is because the dynamic of migration shifts all the time.  And so there’s a need for us to constantly be in touch and adjust our approach. 

I will say that I – we give Mexico a lot of credit for what they are doing, as really a leader in the region.  And we’ve seen this just in recent years.  I think they’ve really emerged as a prominent leader on the regional migration front.  So I talked a lot about the Los Angeles Declaration and responsibility sharing and wanting all countries to do work on stabilization, root causes, legal pathways, and humane border management.  I would argue that Mexico is doing all of those things.   

They are the – one of the top asylum countries in the world, meaning that they’re offering asylum and legal status to many migrants that are coming to their country seeking protection.  They are also opening new legal pathways to Mexico from Central America.  This is the commitment that AMLO – that Mexico made when adopting the Los Angeles Declaration.  My understanding is that they’ve surpassed their commitment.  We ask all countries to do that.  We applaud Mexico for taking leadership on that. 

And then we really do appreciate the investment and work that Mexico has done on humane border management.  They have established checkpoints.  They have – they are conducting repatriations by air and land.  They are imposing visa requirements.  These are asks that we have of every country under this regional framework.  So we all could do more and we all struggle, to be honest, to address this challenge, but we’re grateful for the partnership with Mexico.  Thanks.  

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Thank you.  We’ll take one more in the room before going.  Did Stefanie – did you have a question? 

QUESTION:  Yeah, a question to each of you, if I may.  Stefanie Bolzen.  I’m work for Die Welt, German newspaper.  Can – would you mind explaining a bit more on how this Mexico initiative works?  So you just talked about more cooperation in the sense of (inaudible) numbers or how – who takes in who and who repatriates (inaudible)?   

And then to Eric, do you have recent numbers of claims, claims that were approved, asylum claims (inaudible) since the initiative started?   

And to – last (inaudible) question – it’s a broader question, but you talked about repatriation to (inaudible) India and Mauritania and other countries.  At a broader level, from a European perspective, how is it possible that the U.S. has so many repatriation agreements?  How do you manage that?   

MS TOBIN:  I’ll be brief.  Our – in addition to the high-level diplomatic discussions with the Mexicans, we also have a regular operational exchange, really daily interactions between our Department of Homeland Security and their Mexican counterparts.  Blas can speak to that more, but it’s a real exchange of information, and also with our law enforcement agencies.  Thanks.  

MR JACOBSTEIN:  Sure.  Just really quickly, happy to get back to you with this in numbers.  We just note that this has really moved faster than ever in terms of expedited refugee processing, and we’ve already seen arrivals.  You can see a number of videos that we posted on social media of arrival of individuals who went through this – legal pathways through the Safe Mobility Offices.  But we’re happy to get back to you with the specific numbers.   

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  Yeah.  I would just want to highlight what Eric said.  I think the Safe Mobility Offices are a brand-new initiative.  We are really excited about their potential.  As with all new things, we are learning a lot as we go along, and it really reflects a just deep collaboration between the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s a model that we hope to continue to build on and that I know some of our partners around the world are looking at very closely as a potential solution for them as well, including some of our European partners. 

In terms of our repatriations to countries, I mean, I just can’t stress enough how much time we spend working with our partners throughout the world to enable us to facilitate repatriations.  It’s something we work on night and day and have been significantly expanding over the last three years.  We are continuing, obviously, to expand our ability to return not just within our hemisphere but throughout the world, given that we are seeing increased flows from outside of the hemisphere into the hemisphere.  And I think that just reflects the global reality, right.  And I think we are seeing more displaced people today all over the world than at any point since World War II, and that’s obviously true in our hemisphere as well. 

So one of the things Katie and I spend a lot of time doing in our hemisphere is recognizing that it isn’t just an impact for the United States.  There are – every single country in our hemisphere is really impacted by migration in one way or another, and we are every day kind of working to share best practices and lessons that we have learned and take lessons from them as well.   

MODERATOR:  Okay.  I’m going to go online for a couple and then come back to the room.  Jose, do you have a question?  

QUESTION:  Yes.  Thank you so much.  This is a question for Katie.  Yeah, after your trip to Mexico there was some controversy on whether democratic decline was a root cause of migration, and I wanted to ask whether the Biden administration believes that democratic decline, it’s a root cause of migration.   

For Blas, can you provide a benchmark on how much encounters have diminished at the border since Mexico started to take the actions after the trip of the principals to Mexico, please?   

MS TOBIN:  Sure.  On your first point, what – that was just an issue of version control.  We were negotiating the text of the joint statement.  That was something that had not been part of the negotiation, and so we had to adjust it to make sure that our statements were the same.  But just to give assurances that promoting democracy in the Western Hemisphere and around the world is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration. 

And then on the second question, I don’t think we have specific numbers to share, but we have seen a rather significant reduction in border encounters just in recent weeks.  We do credit that partially with increased enforcement both on our side and by the Government of Mexico, but we see a lull this time of year around the holidays consistently, so we’re not drawing any conclusions right now in terms of border trends. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  Yeah, just want to highlight what Katie said there at the end.  We are used to seeing lower flows this time of year, and I think we all recognize that our encounters will continue to fluctuate and that there’s a lot of factors that are driving people to move.  And that obviously includes the pernicious role that the smugglers and the transnational criminal organizations are playing in, frankly, preying on migrants and putting them in harm’s way for profit.  And so we continue, again, to work with Mexico and partners to address those transnational criminal organizations, and while we are encouraged by what we’ve seen at the border over the last couple of weeks, I think it is obviously not something we – we’re not declaring victory. 

MODERATOR:  Andres, do you have a question? 

QUESTION:  Yes.  Yes, thank you very much.  I am Andres from La Politica Online from Argentina.  Do you think that as a result of the possibility of Trump becoming president again, the attempts to cross the border will increase in coming months?  You talked recently about the different factor that impacts; could be that one of them? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  So I’m not really going to comment on what may or may not happen politically in this country.  I would note that, again, we have seen these surges of migration happen under presidents of both parties, including under President Trump, so it is not at all clear that any policies that the next president, if it happens to be President Trump, would implement will actually impact this absent congressional action, because there are just limits on what the Executive Branch can do on its own through its executive authorities.  And again, want to reiterate that we need Congress to act to modernize our laws, but also to pass the emergency supplemental funding request that we submitted to Congress.  Our men and women on the front lines have really been doing heroic work night and day over the last few years as they deal with these challenges, and we need to provide the resources that they need to do their jobs, and we continue to call on the House of Representatives and the Senate not just to update our immigration laws but to pass the emergency funding request that we submitted months ago.  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  Okay, last one for now from Zoom, and then we’ll go back to the room.  Ali, do you have a question? 

QUESTION:  Yes.  Thank you so much.  Thank you so much.  This is Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News TV, Pakistan.  My first question is that it’s been about two years since Republican governors from Texas and Arizona started sending thousands of migrants to the District and other cities in protest of President Biden’s border policy, and still today – I mean every single day – hundreds of migrants are coming to D.C., residing in posh areas.  The Government is – the District – paying for their hotel stay, their laundries, three meals a day, and medical facilities.  So what is the endgame here?  What is the end plan?  How U.S. Government and agencies are planning to deal with this kind of situation?  I know you just said – Mr. Nuñez just said that Congress needs to come together on this issue, but we know both the parties have huge differences regarding their immigration policies. 

And secondly, sir, how does the government plan to address the backlog in immigration processing and streamline the application of approval processes?  Thank you. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  Sure, thanks for the questions.  First, I think we collaborate with state and local governments throughout the country on a daily basis, and we have consistently called on our governors to ensure any actions they take are fully coordinated with the federal government and also with other states.  We continue to be disappointed with some of the actions that some governors on the border have been taking, and again believe that they are at times putting migrants at risk and also potentially putting our law enforcement officers at risk when they deploy their personnel without fully coordinating their actions. 

We have been working to support state, local communities, NGOs all over the country who are involved in the reception of immigrants and providing them shelter and care.  We have distributed more than a billion dollars to support those NGOs and state and local governments, and we as part of our emergency funding request also asked for additional funding for that program, which we view as critical.  We recognize, though, that’s a drop in the bucket in terms of what the need is throughout the country, and again, we view this unfortunately as the cost of this broken immigration system that really only the U.S. Congress can address. 

In terms of the backlogs, again, I think that it is a direct result of our immigration system and its infirmities.  We have been working to try to streamline processes, bring more applications online, and provide people with a faster pathway to their ultimate decision, but again, we are under-resourced for this task.  We have asked for additional asylum officers in our emergency funding request; we have asked for additional immigration court personnel, including judges, in order to address some of these backlogs, allow us to process people more quickly.  And we, again, hope that the U.S. Congress will come together in a bipartisan way to provide those resources, as well as address the underlying issues in our immigration system.  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you.  Question in the room here in the front.  Igor. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.)  Igor Naimushin, RIA Novosti News Agency, Washington.  So there are records in the U.S. media that the upcoming Senate deal on border security could lead to amendments in the parole (inaudible) Ukrainian nationals who are currently staying in the United States on humanitarian grounds – asylum seekers – so and lead to their decrease.  Could you confirm or elaborate on this?   

And the second question is:  Does the U.S. see any changes, any decrease in the number of asylum-seekers from Russia and from Ukraine now in comparison with early 2022, ’23?  I’m talking about legal and illicit crossings.   

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NUÑEZ-NETO:  Sure, thanks for those questions.  I can’t comment on the negotiations in the Senate.  What I can say again is that we are encouraged that there is a bipartisan working group, that they are, as we understand it, making progress, and we hope that there is an agreement reached that can pass the U.S. Senate.  And we would call on our colleagues in the House of Representatives to put politics aside and work together – again, across the aisle and across both chambers – to come up with a lasting solution here. 

I don’t have the numbers in terms of Ukrainian and Russian encounters or individuals filing for asylum, but we can come back to you with those numbers later today.  Yeah.  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  And we have another one.  Sara.  Yeah. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I work for Spain’slargest radio station, Cadena Ser.  So I would like to follow up on the Safe Mobility Office initiative, which, as you mentioned, Spain is a part of.  If we have more information in terms of requirements to apply to this program, what are the quotas – for example, Spain?  When will it begin?  And then you also said that the rest of the world is looking at this model.  Are there any countries specifically out there that have shown interest? 

MR JACOBSTEIN:  Great, I can start.  Thanks for that.  And just to get to the prior question too, I have some numbers: 3,200 individuals have arrived safely through the Safe Mobility Offices.  But in addition to that, 12,400 individuals have been referred to other lawful pathways.  So it’s really huge when you compare it over time to the amount of time it takes to do X amount of refugee processing, and there’s more and more going through the Safe Mobility Offices each day. 

I would say a few things in terms of specificity.  So nationals of Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela present in Colombia can submit a free application at  And individuals must have been largely present in Colombia on or before June 11th of 2023 to be eligible.  And in the case of Costa Rica, nationals of Nicaragua and Venezuela can present a free application at a similar website with the Costa Rica page, and those individuals must have been in Costa Rica as of June 12th, 2023.  We’re also working with Guatemala and Ecuador on separate processes, and you can find that all on the website. 

We are greatly appreciative of Spain’s leadership on legal pathways across the board, and I know that there have been representatives from the Spanish Government who have visited the Safe Mobility Offices and look forward to greater collaboration in that space.  I would say that both Spain and Canada have been real leaders in the lawful pathways space across the board, which – related to collaboration on this program, but across the board.  But maybe I turn to Katie if there’s anything she wants to add, because I know she’s been working very closely with partner governments. 

MS TOBIN:  I just want to underscore how grateful we are to Spain.  We do hope other EU countries will join us.  We know that Europe is facing similar challenges.   

And I just want to underscore one point.  You mentioned our work on Ukraine, and then the work we’re now doing on Safe Mobility Offices.  And one of the common threads is that we have been really innovating over the last several years with the Biden-Harris administration to meet migrants where they are, and many of them are on their smartphones.  The best way for us to get accurate information to them and make it – help them to access a legal pathway is through these applications.  We also know that that’s how they’re getting information about going through the Darién and sort of the dangerous ways in which people migrate, so we’re in competition.  So we have really been working – and I credit my colleagues here for doing a lot of the innovating and the teams, but this is the way of the future.  And this is part of some of the conversations that we have with our partners, like Canada, like Spain.  How can we continue to innovate to make it easier for people that we have interest in coming here?  We have jobs to fill.  We have families that need to be reunited.  And so how can we make it easier for people to access these legal pathways?   

So we call them Safe Mobility Offices.  There are physical locations where people can go in countries like Colombia.  But a lot of the process actually happens virtually through these mobile applications. 

So anyway, we welcome the opportunity to continue to speak with you all about these legal pathways.  It’s so important that we work with you all to ensure that migrants have access to this accurate information and the humanitarian options for them.  Thanks. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  That concludes the question portion of this briefing.  Do our briefers have any final remarks they would like to give at this time?  Okay.  Well, then this concludes our briefing.  I want to give a special thanks again to our briefers for sharing their time with us today, and for all of those who participated.  Thank you. 


U.S. Department of State

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