Good afternoon and welcome to today’s session on the role of local governments in receiving and integrating migrants and refugees in cities in the Americas. Thank you to the OAS, IOM, UNHCR, and PADF for hosting us all.
This panel is very timely, as displacement in our hemisphere is growing at rates we’ve never seen before. More than 20 million people are displaced in the Western Hemisphere. These include people fleeing persecution and others choosing to migrate for a variety of reasons, from crime, violence, discrimination, and corruption to economic opportunity and family reunification. Members of marginalized racial, ethnic, and Indigenous communities, including people of African descent, are disproportionately impacted.
These increasing challenges require us to work together to find ways to meet the needs of refugees, internally displaced persons, and migrants, from the national level down to the local level, and to explore innovative
responses to migration and forced displacement. In my travels throughout the hemisphere—from Mexico to Chile—I have been encouraged by the efforts of governmental and nongovernmental partners to respond to humanitarian needs and humanely manage mixed migration movements in the region. We must all continue to collaborate to promote respect for the human rights of migrants, increase access to asylum, and combat human smuggling and trafficking.
I know that many cities in the hemisphere are already providing significant assistance to refugees and migrants, often with limited resources.
Cities are creating their own shelters and finding ways to integrate refugees and migrants into the local economy, and citizens are volunteering their time to care for refugees and migrants. Many of these city leaders are in this room, and we will hear from some of them shortly.
Even as we face record displacement, there are also labor shortages across the United States and other countries in the hemisphere. Migrants and refugees are valuable members of the workforce, and I look forward to hearing from our panelists on how we can specifically create inclusive policies and private sector partnerships that create economic activity and meet pressing workforce needs while protecting labor rights and American workers.
The United States is committed to working with federal, state, and local governments across the hemisphere to meet the needs of displaced persons and the communities that host them. As the largest humanitarian assistance donor for the Western Hemisphere, we are following through on our commitment to ensuring that communities have more resources available to respond to the needs of refugees and migrants. In fiscal year 2022, we provided more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance across the hemisphere.
Earlier today, Secretary Blinken and DHS Secretary Mayorkas outlined comprehensive U.S. efforts to support safe, orderly, and humane migration throughout our hemisphere, in a spirit of shared responsibility and resolve with partners. It was in this spirit that President Biden joined 20 other Western Hemisphere leaders to endorse the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection at the Summit of the Americas last June. The Los Angeles Declaration aligns and reenforces our commitment to strengthen regional efforts to promote humane migration management and provide protection to those who need it.
The United States is also committed to ensuring our own communities are welcoming refugees. To this end, the recently launched Welcome Corps program is the most significant innovation to U.S. refugee resettlement since the creation of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Through Welcome Corps, groups of everyday Americans will play a direct role in refugee resettlement, sponsoring refugees approved for resettlement. This program invites private sponsors to play an expanded role in welcoming refugees, as many of the communities represented in this room are already doing.
In closing, I want to commend local governments across the hemisphere for their efforts to aid refugees and migrants and integrate them into their communities. We each have a role to play in responding to migration, and I look forward to hearing from the panelists on how we can further our collective efforts. Thank you.