U.S., Mexico Talk ‘Orderly’ Migration Amid More Crossings
(Bloomberg) -- Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and senior U.S. officials discussed how to resolve an increasingly dire situation on their border in a meeting in Mexico City on Tuesday.
The White House sent top Latin America officials Roberta Jacobson and Juan Gonzalez to Mexico as a surge of migrants, especially unaccompanied children, at the U.S.-Mexico border shows no sign of abating. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have called on President Joe Biden to act in order to head off a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
The quandary also threatens to become a political crisis for the administration, with Republicans attacking Biden for reversing President Donald Trump’s hard-line policies.
“I have an important message for those migrants who wish to enter the United States in an irregular fashion,” Jacobson said in a statement posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico Tuesday evening. “Do not come to the border. The border is closed.”
Jacobson warned migrants that they could become victims of crime including human trafficking. Making the journey north during the pandemic increases risk of infection, especially if they are weakened from “the dangerous trip,” she said.
Officials from both countries “held a meeting to boost mechanisms of cooperation that promote orderly, safe and regular migration in the region,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry tweeted. The six-person group discussed economic development in northern Central America and how to protect migrants’ rights, the ministry wrote.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, the ministry said the participants “highlighted humanitarian actions to boost short-term, inclusive economic growth in the north of Central America that could mitigate the root causes behind migration flows in the region.”
Biden entered office in January pledging to establish a more humane U.S. immigration system, but that promise has been assailed by Trump and other conservatives as a reason for the waves of new migrants. The dynamic has already made it even more difficult for the American president to get an immigration overhaul through Congress.
Biden, on a trip to Ohio on Tuesday, said he would address the border issue in a few days and accused the previous administration of “dismantling the system.”
The crisis has given Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador “a short window to pressure the Biden administration to his will,” said Gladys McCormick, a historian focused on U.S.-Mexico relations at Syracuse University. Many analysts expected Biden to refocus the relationship by trying to push Lopez Obrador, who is known as AMLO, away from his economic protectionism and retrenchment on environmental issues. But Mexico, she said, instead could use the opportunity to negotiate trade concessions.
Last week, the White House agreed to send Mexico 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses on the same day that the Mexican government announced it would limit travel across the U.S. border to only essential trips. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry denied the decisions were connected. In a call in early March, Biden told Lopez Obrador he agreed on the need to create legal pathways for migration.
The dramatic increase in the number of people encountered by U.S. border officials in recent weeks includes 18,945 family members encountered in February alone, an increase of 168% from January, according to the Pew Research Center. Apprehensions at the southwest border typically increase in the spring and then fall as the weather gets hotter, so it’s unclear if people will continue to cross at the current pace.
The U.S. representatives were expected to encourage their Mexican counterparts to do more to apprehend migrants before they reach the U.S., according to senior administration officials who previewed the trip.
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