Colombia asks for legal status for its people already in US

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia wants the Biden administration to grant temporary legal status to its citizens living in the U.S., marking its efforts to address regional migration by taking in 2 million Venezuelans who have fled their homes.

Gustavo Petro was elected as the first left-wing president of Colombia Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Luis Alberto Murillo Urrutia, expressed his commitment to the former president’s “incredibly generous policies” that included temporary status for 1.8 million people who fled neighboring Venezuela in June.

However, the diplomat asked for help from the United States and said that in addition to the Venezuelans who stay and work, more than 80,000 migrants pass through Colombia to other countries every year.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, he asks President Joe Biden to grant Colombians living in the U.S. a temporary status known as deferred deportation.

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“Migration is a regional issue that must be resolved within the framework of the principle of shared responsibility, strengthening regional cooperation to ensure migration order,” Murillo Urrutia wrote in a letter dated November 17 and released by Colombian officials on Tuesday.

The language is similar to the deal Biden brokered in Los Angeles in June with Western Hemisphere nations, including then-president Ivan Duque of Colombia. “Los Angeles Declaration” adopted as a road map for countries receiving large numbers of migrants and refugees.

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security had no comment Tuesday evening on Colombia’s request.

It is unclear how many Colombians are living in the United States without legal status. The Migration Policy Institute estimated 171,000 in 2019, but tens of thousands have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this year, many of whom have been released to continue their work in immigration court.

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U.S. authorities have stopped Colombians at the Mexican border 131,890 times in 10 months of this year, including 17,195 in October, a sharp increase that makes them one of the largest nationalities at the border. Trump-era asylum restrictions have been applied to migrants whom Mexico has agreed to accept only a handful of people — Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and, more recently, Venezuelans in addition to Mexicans.

Murillo Urritia said there are about 2 million Colombians living in the United States, without specifying their immigration status. He said the new government was eager to stay in line with the 2016 peace accords.

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Last week, the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army resumed peace talks After a hiatus of about four years, the insurgents expanded their operations.

“For more than 60 years, hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been forced to flee the country to rebuild their lives due to conflict, and many recent arrivals remain vulnerable and unprotected in the United States,” wrote Murillo Urrutia. .

The Biden administration has extended temporary status for some countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, Cameroon and Venezuela, reversing a Trump-era trend that has reduced protections for U.S. residents.

A Colombian diplomat said his government’s goal is “for our people to return to Colombia with dignity if they choose immigration status in the United States or have legal options.”


Spagat reported from San Diego, California.


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