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Several major elections in the Americas could impact the flow of migrants to the U.S.


The Biden administration has been ramping up its efforts to curb undocumented immigration at the U.S. southern border. And it has been counting on support from the governments of Mexico and Central America, where several major presidential elections could impact the flow of migrants to the U.S. NPR's Jasmine Garsd joins us to discuss. Hi there.


SUMMERS: So, Jasmine, earlier this week, President Biden announced executive actions that would increase deportations of undocumented migrants seeking asylum at the border. Mexico has a newly elected president, Claudia Sheinbaum. What's her stance?

GARSD: So Mexico has collaborated with the U.S. on immigration for decades. Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been accepting deportees and deployed the Mexican National Guard to police migration. Newly elected President Sheinbaum is expected to keep collaborating. Here's Lila Abed of the Wilson Center.

LILA ABED: It's important to note that while migration continues to be a priority on the bilateral agenda, it now is also a priority for Mexico. And that's because Mexico is no longer just a transit country for migrants. It is now a destination.

GARSD: And Sheinbaum has said to stop immigration, root causes like poverty have to be addressed.

SUMMERS: Right. OK. Let's turn now to Central America. There have been recent elections there, too. What can you tell us about those?

GARSD: Panama recently elected President Jose Raul Mulino, who has vowed to close the Darien Gap. That's the jungle region that migrants track through to get to the U.S. The other major election this year was El Salvador. President Nayib Bukele was reelected. And the U.S. has had an uneasy relationship with the self-described world's coolest dictator. But last week Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas attended his presidential inauguration ceremony. I spoke to Roman Gressier from the newspaper El Faro in English, and he says the Biden administration has shifted.

ROMAN GRESSIER: We're not getting in the mud on the issue of unconstitutional reelection, and we are stressing migration cooperation and economic cooperation.

GARSD: A clear message about priorities.

SUMMERS: So, Jasmine, so far, you've told us about elections and the government perspectives, but I'm interested in hearing about the people who actually choose to make the journey.

GARSD: Look. We know that deterrence alone doesn't work long-term. I want to point you to another major presidential election coming up end of July in Venezuela. Venezuela is going through a severe humanitarian crisis - around 7.7 million migrants and refugees as of last year. And, you know, this week, after the president's executive actions, I kept thinking about a Venezuelan mom I spoke to recently at a New York shelter, Estefani. She asked that we withhold her last name because she was sexually assaulted en route.

ESTEFANI: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: So she told me back home, every day, she had to make this choice - feed her kid lunch or dinner. And she tried to live in Colombia and Ecuador, and eventually, she got desperate and made the journey to the U.S. And so there's this huge amount of pressure for Latin American countries to enforce immigration, but the reasons people like Estefani are leaving remain.

SUMMERS: NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you.

GARSD: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.