US President Joe Biden praised Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for his country’s collaboration with the United States and Canada to establish migration hubs in Latin America, where asylum seekers fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries can apply for protection.
The two leaders sat down at the White House on Friday for wide-ranging talks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change and other issues.
Sánchez told reporters following the meeting that he and Biden discussed their countries’ continuing efforts to support Ukraine as Russia’s invasion grinds on. Sánchez recently met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both of whom have put forward ideas to end the conflict.
White House officials have dismissed China’s 12-point peace plan, and called on Beijing to use its influence to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.
Sánchez said that Spain, which will assume the rotating presidency of the European Council in July, is committed to a ‘lasting and just peace’ to resolve the Ukraine crisis. He made clear that he sides with Biden and other Western allies in condemning Russian aggression.
‘Make no mistake, in this war there is an aggressor and victim,’ Sánchez said. ‘And in this war the aggressor is President Putin.’
On another subject, Spain has called on the US to conduct further cleanup of contaminated soil left after a nuclear accident in 1966. A midair collision dumped four US hydrogen bombs near a southern Spanish village. None of the bombs exploded.
Migration – Latin America
Efforts by the US and Spain to cooperate on asylum processing loomed large over the discussion as the Biden administration rolls out new immigration measures now that Covid-19 immigration restrictions have ended.
The new efforts are designed to crack down on illegal border crossings while opening legal pathways to give migrants incentives to apply for asylum online where they are, instead of making the dangerous journey to the border.
Migrants caught illegally crossing the southern US border cannot return for five years, and they face criminal prosecution if they do. And migrants will be barred from seeking asylum at the border if they do not first ask for protection in a country they travelled through or apply online.
A major piece of the expanded legal pathway is the creation of processing centres in Colombia and Guatemala and up to 100 others in the Western Hemisphere where migrants can go to apply to enter the US, Spain or Canada.
‘We’re both facing the challenges of migration in the Western Hemisphere,’ Biden told Sánchez at the start of the Oval Office meeting.
It has been a huge step for the White House to get Spain and Canada to agree to take in asylum seekers from Latin America. And it helps reinforce the Biden administration’s argument that the current migration quandary facing the Americas is a global problem that needs a global solution — much like the refugee crises that have impacted Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine in recent years.
Spain, although it has high overall unemployment, needs workers for agriculture and other hard-to-fill fields, and it will be able to accept migrants who want to go there and have needed skills.
The Spanish ministry has said the pathway will only apply to those who have already received international protection status. That means the migrants it accepts will need to be considered refugees and will be treated in much the same way that Syrian asylum seekers, traveling via Turkey, have been treated by Spain.
‘Spain and the US, we have common interests about democracy, prosperity and safe, regular and orderly migration patterns,’ Sánchez said.
‘Your commitment to democracy is an example for everyone,’ he told Biden, adding that the United States and Spain were ‘allies and friends’.
España y Estados Unidos somos socios, aliados y amigos. Estamos juntos en la defensa de la democracia.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) May 12, 2023
Gracias @POTUS por tu cálida acogida y hospitalidad. pic.twitter.com/qf8SwYSPRC
ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez urges Xi Jinping to hold talks with Ukraine’s Zelensky.
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