WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is hosting Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves at the White House Tuesday, following an agreement between the two nations on possible legal pathways for migrants.
The two leaders are expected to discuss how the two nations can work together to strengthen economic ties through new jobs, advance democracy and promote orderly migration.
The Central American nation has emerged as an immigration hotspot, as migrants increasingly travel through the dangerous Darien Gap from Colombia into Central America and north into Costa Rica.
In June, Costa Rica and the U.S. agreed to open potential legal pathways to the United States for some of the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan migrants who are among the 240,000 asylum seekers in the Central American nation. Last year, Nicaraguans accounted for nine out of 10 applicants.
The agreement was aimed at reducing the pressure on Costa Rica’s overwhelmed asylum system and heading off asylum seekers who could give up on the slow process in Costa Rica, and instead set off for the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. is grappling with increasing numbers of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border and clamped down on illegal crossings while offering expanded pathways following the end of pandemic-era restrictions at the border.
Chaves said in December the policies were being abused by people looking only to come work and then leave, and the policies would be tightened. As an alternative, officials offered a two-year work permit for Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans in exchange for dropping their longer-term asylum cases.
Costa Rica, a nation of roughly 5 million people, is also grappling with increasing crime and murder, blamed largely on violence related to drug trafficking. The nation, once a passthrough for drugs moving from South America to the U.S., is increasingly becoming an important hub — and there’s a growing domestic market, too. Chaves has promised an increase in police presence.