In April, the Biden administration announced it would be opening “processing centers” in Central and South America to allow migrants to apply to come to the U.S. without making the dangerous journey to the southern border. The plan was to get the first centers open “within weeks,” officials told reporters, but so far none of the three centers that have opened appear to have successfully fostered legal travel to the U.S. for migrants seeking refugee status or asylum.

Leaders of international nongovernmental organizations have pressed the Biden administration for answers on the status of the centers, now called “Safe Mobility Offices,” but so far have been met with vague answers from the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. They have been told, according to two NGO leaders, that the goal of building brick-and-mortar centers where migrants could make their case for refugee status or other protections has now shifted to setting up online portals.

“It’s really tough to grade success because we haven’t heard of any stories of people going through them,” a leader at an international NGO told NBC News, meaning the group was unaware of any migrants who may have applied via the centers and then been approved to live in the U.S. through refugee status or another legal pathway.

“Initially, you could go in person and show up without an appointment, but they are moving toward an online process,” the NGO leader said.


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