US President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, warned of “unprecedented” migration pressure in a call on Friday that highlighted a major political headache for the White House ahead of the November elections.
“Given the unprecedented flows of migrants from across the hemisphere to our two countries, the presidents reiterated the need to build stronger tools to manage regional migration surges,” the White House said in a statement after the announcement. call between the two presidents.
The virtual meeting, just under an hour, showcased Biden’s attempt to steer the complex relationship onto a more cooperative basis after the tumultuous, at times tense, situation under his predecessor Donald Trump.
“The tone of the call was very constructive. It was not a call where President Biden threatened the Mexican president in any way,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, referring to Trump’s aggressive strategy with Mexico on illegal immigration.
The two nations are inextricably linked by trade, culture and the violent narcotics industry. However, the dilemma of managing both legal and illegal migration hangs over everything.
This is a topic that will feature prominently at the upcoming Americas Regional Summit in June, to be held in Los Angeles.
“Most of the conversation was about migration and continuing the coordination work, about economic coordination, about taking steps to reduce migration along the border,” Psaki said.
Lopez Obrador tweeted after the call that Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard will travel to Washington on Monday to discuss “development cooperation issues” and the Summit of the Americas.
And Lopez Obrador himself is due to visit Central America and Cuba from May 5 to 9, with stops in three of the main countries from which the migrant caravans come: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
The trip is unusual, as the Mexican president has made few foreign visits since taking office in 2018, although he has visited the United States three times.
A senior US official told reporters on Friday that “monumental challenges” around the world, ranging from climate change to war in Ukraine and food insecurity, are causing “unprecedented levels of migration”.
Imminent power surge
The already messy situation is heating up with Biden’s attempt to end Title 42, a rule instituted during the COVID pandemic as a way to quickly deport migrants and asylum seekers, rather than letting them stay in the states. United as their cases are heard.
Opponents see the rule no longer warranted, but Republicans and even some members of Biden’s own party warn that lifting the measure will trigger an unchecked push across the border. Although the rule was due to expire on May 23, a court order means it remains in place for the time being.
With Biden’s Democrats potentially facing heavy defeats in November’s midterm congressional elections, the problem will only escalate.
Both sides of the political divide in Washington agree there is a problem.
The White House talks about a “broken” immigration system that Congress should fix, while Republicans accuse Biden of failing to protect the country’s southern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recorded 7,800 undocumented migrants a day along the southwest border for the past three weeks, nearly five times the average of 1,600 recorded from 2014 to 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak.
But where Trump has made political capital with a plan to strengthen barriers and walls along the border, as well as threats of tariffs on Mexico, the Biden administration is doubling down on his theory that only a collaborative approach more complex can work.
“Given our shared border, we have to do this together – and as a region,” the US official said, referring to the challenge of managing the expected surge if Title 42 were lifted.
The phrase most often heard from the Biden White House when explaining its approach to the migration issue is that of “root causes” – a reference to economic, security, political and increasingly climatic tensions. which push people to leave the poorer countries of the South.
“We have many challenges ahead of us, but we can best address them when we work in partnership,” the official said. “What I will say is that the mechanisms for cooperation with Mexico did not work under the previous administration.”