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Managing Maritime Arrivals: MPI Policy Beat

October 27, 2023 (1 min read)

MPI, Oct. 25, 2023

"The Biden administration’s immigration playbook has become increasingly clear. Amid record arrivals of asylum seekers and other migrants coming without prior authorization to enter the United States, it is limiting access to protections for people arriving between ports of entry, opening alternative legal pathways for people fleeing difficult situations, and working with other countries to manage flows before migrants reach U.S. soil. This is, broadly speaking, the strategy the administration is employing to counter record pressures at the U.S.-Mexico border. And it is also the approach for contending with the increasing numbers of migrants traveling on small boats through the Caribbean to reach U.S. shores. Rising maritime migration has been overshadowed by events at the U.S.-Mexico border, but is presenting a formidable challenge of its own to the U.S. government, one unseen in decades. Cubans and Haitians in particular have been taking to the sea in numbers not witnessed in a generation, and the Haitian numbers could surge as that country spirals closer to collapse. As a result, the United States is faced with a challenge that has more recently bedeviled governments in Australia and Europe: how to spot and halt small and typically unseaworthy boats to prevent loss of life, and beyond that, how to prevent individuals from setting off in the first place. As with asylum seekers and other migrants arriving by land, the administration is seeking to disincentivize unauthorized maritime arrivals by expanding legal pathways and making ineligible for asylum those who do not present at a port of entry with an appointment. It has also embraced a regional approach, building on agreements with The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos to expand the ability of all three countries’ authorities to interdict migrants closer to their setting-off points and return them. Other migrant-receiving countries, which have a history of using offshore detention centers and migration enforcement in transit nations to deter irregular arrivals, are watching this increased regional cooperation with interest. Early indications suggest the new policies are resulting in a greater number of arrivals occurring through legal channels. Although overall interdictions at sea are just a tiny fraction of the number of arrivals to the U.S.-Mexico border, maritime migration is a critical element in the Western Hemisphere’s migration patterns and a much larger phenomenon globally. This article examines recent maritime trends, policy responses, and challenges ahead. ... "