Biden Admin to Create Regional Migrant Processing Centers in Latin America, Raising Potential Barriers to Public Transparency

Austin Kocher, PhD
5 min readApr 28, 2023

Asylum seekers may soon find that instead of waiting until they arrive at the US-Mexico border to meet with a US immigration official, they can schedule an appointment to meet with officials at processing centers in Latin American, far from the border, who will determine their eligibility for relocation, asylum, and other pathways to immigration.

This announcement came from the Department of State yesterday as part of a much larger and more expansive assortment of immigration policy changes. For now, I want to focus on these regional processing centers because even though they don’t see equipped to handle a very high percentage of the total number of asylum seekers, they could represent a new barrier to transparency.

The announcement described the Regional Processing Centers (RPCs) as follows:

Open Regional Processing Centers Across the Western Hemisphere to Facilitate Access to Lawful Pathways. In a historic move, the United States alongside other countries of the Los Angeles Declaration today announced they will establish Regional Processing Centers (RPCs) in key locations throughout the Western Hemisphere to reduce irregular migration and facilitate safe, orderly, humane, and lawful pathways from the Americas. The first centers will be established in several countries, including Colombia and Guatemala, in the region. Individuals from the region will be able to make an appointment on their phone to visit the nearest RPC before traveling, receive an interview with immigration specialists, and if eligible, be processed rapidly for lawful pathways to the United States, Canada, and Spain.

This description paints a picture of these processing centers as multifaceted and flexible locations that could take on a range of expedient responsibilities. Like bureaucratic Rube Golberg machines, they seem vaguely conceived to accomplish a yet unarticulated range of likely shifting objectives, although (if they move forward) their purpose will likely take shape over time.

According to reporting by Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Margaret Brennan at CBS, these “brick-and-mortar” processing centers will “be located in key choke-points” along migration routes through Latin America. I’m eager to return to this point at a later time and examine the geopolitical nature of these RPCs, because I think it’s…

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Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.