Costa Rica-US immigration agreement aims to manage region’s flows

Jun 13, 2023, 4:58 PM | Updated: 5:10 pm

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Rica and the U.S. government have agreed to open potential legal pathways to the United States for some of the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants among the 240,000 asylum seekers already awaiting asylum in the Central American country.

The agreement – announced by Costa Rica Tuesday and the United States late Monday – appears aimed at reducing the pressure on Costa Rica’s overwhelmed asylum system and heading off asylum seekers who could give up on the slow Costa Rica process and instead set off for the U.S. border.

In recent years, Costa Rica with a population of only 5 million has become one of the world’s leading receptors of asylum requests. In part, applying for asylum was a way for migrants to legalize their status and be allowed to seek work.

However, a soaring number of applications, largely from migrants fleeing neighboring Nicaragua, created a massive backlog. Last year, Nicaraguans accounted for nine out of 10 applicants.

On Tuesday, Public Security Minister Mario Zamora did not say how many of the 240,000 people awaiting asylum would be eligible to apply for one of the U.S. pathways. He and Costa Rica’s migration director Marta Vinda emphasized that only Nicaraguans and Venezuelans with pending asylum applications would be considered.

Neither the U.S. nor Costa Rican governments provided details about what the legal pathways could be.

Zamora said the United Nations immigration and refugee agencies would compose a list of those who would be eligible. Migrants applying for asylum after June 12 would not qualify. The officials estimated that they would process about 1,000 cases per month.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department said in a statement the six-month pilot program could expedite refugee processing, as well as other humanitarian and labor options for those interested in entering the U.S.

“In the first two months of the exploratory phase, only eligible individuals will be contacted to schedule a screening appointment at a Movilidad Segura office in Costa Rica to assess whether they are a qualified candidate for lawful pathways to the United States or other countries,” the statement said. After the first two months, eligible migrants will have make an appointment through the MovilidadSegura.org website.

“I suspect that it’s an effort to convince Nicaraguans and Venezuelans in the country to stay there temporarily, keeping numbers down in the short term as they get other things in place at the border,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, said in an email when asked about the Costa Rica agreement. “But who knows how it’ll really work in practice.”

In 2012, Costa Rica received barely 900 asylum applications. In 2018, that number reached nearly 28,000. Last year, the country received more than 67,000 applications between just January and September.

Costa Rica President Rodrigo Chaves said in December the system was being abused by economic migrants and its generous policies would be tightened. As an alternative, it offered a two-year work permit for Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans in exchange for dropping their asylum cases.

The U.S. government has been seeking ways to manage the flow of migrants toward its southern border. It has increasingly sought the cooperation of governments farther south on the migratory route.

On Monday, a website began working that allows Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans who are still in their countries to apply through a website for appointments to assess their eligibility for various legal pathways offered by the United States.

Nicaraguans and Venezuelans have become major sources of migration to the U.S .during Biden’s presidency. In January, the U.S. began offering parole to up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans a month who apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive by air.


AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.


FILE - Sabreen Sharrief, right, reaches out to hug fellow plaintiff Dorothy Triplett after testifyi...

Associated Press

Mississippi high court blocks appointment of some judges in majority-Black capital city and county

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday struck down part of a state law that would have authorized some circuit court judges to be appointed rather than elected in the capital city of Jackson and the surrounding county, which are both majority-Black. Critics said the law was an effort by the majority-white […]

40 minutes ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Republicans propose impeaching top elections official after disputed vote to fire her

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of Republican Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday proposed impeaching the battleground state’s top elections official as Democrats wage a legal battle to keep the nonpartisan administrator in office. Democrats say the GOP-controlled state Senate acted illegitimately when it voted along party lines last week to oust Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Mississippi Democratic Party chair sues to reinstate himself, saying his ouster was improper

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The former chair of Mississippi’s Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit seeking to reinstate himself as its leader, arguing that he was improperly ousted in July. Tyree Irving, a former appellate judge who had chaired the state party since 2020, was voted out by a majority of party officials at a […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Remains of Michigan soldier killed in Korean War accounted for after 73 years

DETROIT (AP) — The remains of an 18-year-old Army corporal from Detroit who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 have been identified, officials said Thursday. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Cpl. Lewis W. Hill was accounted for on May 22 after agency scientists identified his remains using dental and anthropological analysis […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

New York attorney general sends cease-and-desist letter to group accused of voter intimidation

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York attorney general’s office on Thursday sent a cease-and-desist letter to a group accused of confronting voters at their homes while claiming to be state election officials and falsely accusing people of committing voter fraud. The letter orders the group NY Citizens Audit to immediately stop any voter intimidation […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Former US Sen. Dick Clark, an Iowa Democrat known for helping Vietnam War refugees, has died at 95

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Dick Clark, a Democrat who unexpectedly won a single term representing Iowa in the 1970s after campaigning by walking around the state, and who later played a key role in aiding refugees after the Vietnam War, has died. He was 95. Clark died Wednesday at his home […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Costa Rica-US immigration agreement aims to manage region’s flows