WASHINGTON – President Biden will videoconference Monday with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, one of the unexpected but crucial drivers of Trump-era policies to protect the United States from migrants, which Mr Biden is trying to relax.
Mr. Biden is expected to speak about the coronavirus pandemic, tackling drug trafficking and working together on economic opportunities with one of Washington’s largest trading partners, according to a senior government official. The discussion, which will take place just days after Mr Biden attempted to reestablish ties in a virtual meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will also focus on efforts to control migration as the Biden government has a the growing number of unaccompanied children on the south-western border is struggling.
Mr López Obrador is a critical partner as Mr Biden seeks to reverse former President Donald J. Trump’s border policies and make an immigration overhaul a core part of his agenda. In Mr López Obrador, however, the new president has nothing to do with another relieved world leader who is out to rebuild relationships and break away from his aggressive predecessor.
The Mexican president won Mr. Trump’s admiration for working together on his tough immigration agenda, a reversal of an election promise to protect migrants made in part to avoid tariffs that Mr. Trump threatened to impose. Mr López Obrador praised the Trump administration for its eventual hand-off approach to Mexican domestic affairs and even praised Mr Trump during a conversation with Mr Biden, the then-elected president, in December.
Mr López Obrador was also one of the last leaders in the world to congratulate Mr Biden on his election victory and recently passed a measure to curb US narcotics cooperation on a sharp charge after the US arrested a former Mexican official on drug trafficking charges .
Mr Biden will not be asking for specific action as Mexico is a sovereign nation, said the senior official, who spoke to reporters to discuss the meeting on condition of anonymity. It is unclear how Mr Biden will react to Mr López Obrador’s recent question Call to create a new guest worker program for Mexicans and Central Americans in the United States. Mr Biden would need the help of Congress to upgrade the visas for such temporary workers.
The two heads of state and government, who called on ways to curb migration just a few days after Mr Biden took office on January 22nd, are expected to discuss the causes of persecution and poverty that are forcing Central American families to flee United States. Mr Biden said during his campaign that he would focus on expanding opportunities to apply for refugee status in Central America and strengthening foreign aid to the region. Immigration advocates have criticized Mr Biden in recent days for reopening border facilities that were used during the Trump administration to take in migrant children in the weeks or months required to bring them with their relatives in the United States accommodate.
“We need Mexico’s cooperation. Biden keeps saying we need a regional solution even though he hasn’t talked much about Mexico, ”said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policies at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “There’s a lot of work on the root cause and investing in Central America, but there’s no mention of Mexico.”
After Mr Trump threatened potentially crippling tariffs on the American ally in 2019, Mexico agreed to deploy security forces on the southern border with Guatemala to deter migrants from poverty and persecution.
As part of the tariff removal, the Trump administration also expanded a program across the U.S.-Mexico border that forced migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases were processed. The Biden government has now begun reprocessing many of these migrants, including those who have faced kidnapping and cartel violence and who have been pending during a pandemic that has forced delays in their cases. The government relies on international organizations to test the migrants in Mexico before they are reprocessed in the US.
Mr Biden is also seeking Mexico’s help in deterring newcomers to the border, a destination that is already facing challenges. His administration has maintained Trump-era policies that allow border officials to expel migrants quickly to Mexico. These measures are to be considered necessary by officials of the administrative authority to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons and border communities.
But a recent amendment to Mexican law banning the detention of young children in Tamaulipas state has forced U.S. Customs and Border Protection to return to the practice of releasing migrant families from bus stops in certain areas of neighboring South Texas, causing concern among leaders Border authority. Most migrant families will continue to be deported to Mexico or Central America.
According to the senior official, Biden government officials continued to have talks with Mexico over a solution to the collapse, which would not say whether Mr Biden was planning to bring up the recent change.