In April 2023, the Mayors Migration Council brought together mayors from the Western Hemisphere to participate in the first-ever Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver, Colorado. The summit focused on city-led solutions to migrant and refugee inclusion, as well as other pressing topics for cities.
Here is a summary of the discussions on migration and refugee inclusion from the Summit, including new funding commitments, key moments from mayors, and media engagement.
Mayor Claudia López Hernández of Bogotá, Colombia
In the 21st century, we are citizens of the world. We should be allowed to move, we should be welcomed to move, and we should all be prepared to receive and give at any given time
Migration at the Cities Summit of the Americas
- Migration was a top priority for the 250+ mayors gathered at the Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver on April 26-28. Across the Summit’s activities, mayors elevated city-led solutions for migrant and refugee inclusion and called for increased support from national governments and multilateral financial institutions.
- The MMC joined Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver and over 50 mayors from across the Americas in signing the “Denver Declaration on City Priorities for Regional Cooperation,” committing to “building communities of belonging, where migrants find safety, welcome, and pathways for full social and economic inclusion.”
- The MMC, Emerson Collective, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, and the InterAmerican Dialogue, organized the Summit’s Closing Plenary Session on City-led Solutions: Human Mobility in the Americas. The plenary included a keynote address from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a panel featuring Mayor Jaime Pumarejo, Barranquilla, Colombia; Mayor Claudia López, Bogotá, Colombia; Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle, Washington, US; Mayor Yamileth López Obregón, Upala, Costa Rica; and Commissioner Brigid Shea, Travis County, Texas, US.
- At the Closing Plenary, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a keynote address celebrating city leadership on migration. Speaking of Bogotá and other cities, he said: “Cities are showing that we can actually manage migration safely, humanely, and use it as an opportunity to strengthen our communities.”
- Mayor Jaime Pumarejo of Barranquilla, Colombia, said: “What came as a small grant from the Mayors Migration Council’s Global Cities Fund has become a nine million dollar fundraising effort that has directly impacted people’s lives. By identifying and providing jobs for migrants, we bolstered economic growth and supported local businesses.”
- Mayor Claudia López Hernández of Bogotá, Colombia, said: “We are not only citizens of Denver, or Barranquilla, or Bogota. In the 21st century, we are citizens of the world. We should be allowed to move, we should be welcomed to move, and we should all be prepared to receive and give at any given time.”
- Mayor Bruce Harrell of Seattle, Washington, US: “We are a welcoming city and a human rights city because people from different countries, from different religions, different backgrounds, make us better. Anti-immigration laws are rooted in fear and ignorance. As mayors, we can change the discussion.”
- Commissioner Brigid Shea of Travis County, Texas, US, explained the local effects of a global climate crisis, resulting in a need for migration preparedness: “We know that from climate scenarios in the Southern United States and the Western United States that these areas will become uninhabitable hot and dry, and people will have to migrate north within the United States.”
- The OAS, IOM, UNHCR, and Pan American Development Foundation hosted a panel session on the role of mayors in migrant reception and integration. The session also highlighted findings from the report “Reception and integration of migrants and refugees in the cities of the Americas.”
- During the panel, Mayor Montserrat Caballero of Tijuana, Mexico, said: “For us dealing with migration is a daily effort. It is not a problem. It is just a situation, an essential part of humanity. If we call it a crisis, we are giving it the wrong focus. This is why we need a good public policy.”
- At the Summit, MMC Executive Director Vittoria Zanuso, MMC Leadership Board Mayor Cosse Carolina of Montevideo, Uruguay, and other leaders of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments met with Nina Hachigian, the first US Special Representative for City and State Diplomacy, to discuss upcoming city diplomacy milestones, including the 2023 UN Global Refugee Forum, where the MMC and Mayors Mechanism partners will announce new city pledges to the Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees.
- The Summit built on a growing consensus of US government leaders recognizing the need to invest in city-led solutions to regional migration, including the April 18 Menendez Immigration Plan from Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The plan calls on the Biden Administration to better coordinate arrivals of migrants with US cities and to increase funding for city-led migrant inclusion in the Americas.
Climate Migration at the Cities Summit of the Americas
- The MMC, C40, Climate Migration Council, US State Department, and USAID convened mayors, funders, and UN representatives at a closed-door Roundtable on Climate Migration. Participants included Mayor Jaime Pumarejo of Barranquilla, Colombia; Mayor Maribel Escobar of La Palma, El Salvador; Mayor Joel Martinez of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Mayor Bob Gallagher of Bettendorf, US; Commissioner Brigid Shea of Travis County, US; and senior representatives from State Department, USAID, MMC, C40, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, IOM, and UNHCR.
- At the roundtable, USAID announced a US$1 million investment to address climate migration in Latin American cities, following a call from the C40-MMC Global Mayors Task Force on Climate and Migration. This pilot program will support migrants by developing city-level plans that foster local integration of migrants, reduce disaster risk, and strengthen climate resilience in select cities.
- Mileydi Guilarte, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “We are committed to working with cities throughout the region to provide support as they welcome migrants and create programs to help them become an integral part of their new communities.”
- At the session, Vittoria Zanuso, MMC Executive Director, said: “The Mayors Migration Council is ready to partner with USAID to make this project a success so we can support more cities in other parts of the world and make this new model business-as-usual.”
- Uzra Zeya, US State Department Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, said: “Through the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience—better known as PREPARE—we’re working with partners to … help unlock finance to support national, sub-national, and local climate adaptation action.”
- The MMC, Climate Migration Council, Emerson Collective, and Arnold Ventures, hosted a Climate Change and Regional Migration Reception at the residence of Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
- At the reception, Vittoria Zanuso, MMC Executive Director, said: “As a proud Climate Migration Council member, I want to thank Governor Polis for welcoming us to his home, for welcoming over 250 mayors to Denver, and most importantly for welcoming refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the beautiful State of Colorado.”
MMC in the Media
- MMC Executive Director Vittoria Zanuso and Mayor Jaime Pumarejo of Barranquilla, Colombia call on the Biden Administration to partner with cities on migration solutions in the Americas (World Economic Forum).
- Recognizing the leadership of the MMC, C40, and other networks, the first-ever US special representative for city and state diplomacy, Nina Hachigian, creates an “open door for mayors” to the federal government (Bloomberg City Lab).
- Mayor Jaime Pumarejo of Barranquilla, Colombia and Mayor Maribel Escobar of La Palma, El Salvador explain how the climate crisis is driving people in and out of cities in Latin America (Bloomberg City Lab).
- USAID announces a US$1 million investment to address climate migration in Latin American cities, following a call from the C40-MMC Global Mayors Task Force on Climate and Migration (El Heraldo, La Libertad, El Universal, Press Release EN/SP).
- Climate Migration Council members Vittoria Zanuso and Jaime Pumarejo call on fellow leaders at the Cities Summit of the Americas to address climate migration in the region (Global Americans).
- Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, US, Mayor Tim Kelly of Chattanooga, US, and Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver, US, join the Climate Migration Council. Mayor Hancock commits to prioritize the communities most affected by the climate crisis and ensuring the City and County of Denver are resilient and welcoming for generations to come (The Gazette).
- Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum of Mexico City, Mexico, argues about the importance of investing in places of origin so that people can migrate because of choice rather than necessity (ABC7).