The president of the United States, Joe Biden, and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, are seeking a common response to the migration crisis that has increased pressure on the border. The two leaders spoke by phone this Friday to try to define a common position with a view to the ninth Summit of the Americas, which will be held in June in Los Angeles.
The backdrop for the talk, requested by Washington, also covers security challenges, just as Mexico faces a new war between drug cartels, and energy policy. Biden, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, has put aside the imposition tactic and is trying to tackle the binational agenda through negotiation. Today its purpose was to “discuss priority North American initiatives for the region”, a region that, according to the White House in a statement sent at the end of the day, “remains the most competitive and dynamic in the world” .
The conversation has been “cordial”, as highlighted by both parties. “In view of the unprecedented flows of migrants from throughout the hemisphere to our two countries, both presidents have reiterated the need to build stronger tools to manage regional migration spikes,” according to the aforementioned Washington statement, which ensures that Biden and López Obrador have agreed to share “just, humane and effective efforts to reduce irregular migration.” They also agreed on “the importance of working together with countries throughout the hemisphere to guarantee secure and sustainable livelihoods for migrant populations.”
“We discussed issues of interest in the bilateral relationship and we agreed that [Foreign Relations] Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will visit Washington on Monday to advance on issues of cooperation for development and the Summit of the Americas,” he indicated, for his part, Lopez Obrador. Mexico defends that the conclave be held “without excluding anyone”, in reference to the participation of Cuba.
Along the same lines, the Mexican Foreign Ministry has added that the leaders “reviewed the progress in bilateral collaboration for the development of Central America and southern Mexico, in order to address the root causes of migration.” “They emphasized the importance of working together with other countries in the region to guarantee secure and sustainable livelihoods for their respective citizens and migrant populations,” that department continued in a statement.
The call, which has lasted 52 minutes, has occurred in a precise context. In the first place, the debate around the so-called Title 42 , a guideline applied by Trump in the midst of a pandemic that allows hot returnof immigrants on the border with Mexico under pretexts of health security. The Democratic Administration initially planned to withdraw it at the end of May. That scenario, however, triggered a fight with the Republican governors and has become one of the central themes of the pre-campaign for the mid-term elections in November. In the end, Biden was on Thursday in favor of maintaining the regulations if the justice so decides. A first ruling by a federal court in Louisiana stopped the government’s attempt to lift the measure for two weeks. A new hearing is scheduled for May 13.
Second, López Obrador will visit the northern triangle of Central America next week, with stops in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize before diverting and flying to Cuba to meet with Miguel Díaz-Canel. The trip is very relevant not only for the interests of Mexico, but also for Washington, since the situation of the southern border always anticipates tensions in the more than 3,000 kilometers that border Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The two countries are already participating in joint cooperation programs in the region with the aim of mitigating the phenomenon, although they have differences over the method of direct investment in the migrants’ territories of origin.
In 2021, all records of illegal crossings into the United States in recent decades were broken and the latest official data for this year indicates that around 7,000 people are detained by the Border Patrol every day. With these premises and elections in which the Republicans threaten to seize Congress from the Democrats, Biden faces pressure not only from his political opponents but also from some sectors of his own party. After Trump’s excesses, his administration is still seeking to define a regulatory framework on migration and for this it needs the neighboring country.
On paper, the fluid relationship between Biden and López Obrador and their teams should facilitate an agreement precisely in a year in which, on December 12, the bicentennial of the beginning of official diplomatic relations between the two countries is celebrated. But it is not that simple. The two administrations are made up of broad coalitions with different agendas. The worst moments in the recent border relationship were experienced at Easter, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Trump admirer, applied Title 42 to the letter and launched additional controls that unleashed chaos on four international bridges. .
Those tensions go beyond migration. In recent months, the disagreements in energy matters have become clear in the wake of the debate on an electrical reform with which the Mexican Executive seeks to return majority control of the market to a state company, the Federal Electricity Commission. And the future of the fight against drug trafficking is also worrying in Washington after López Obrador announced the dissolution of a group of elite agents who worked for more than 25 years with the DEA, the United States Drug Control Administration. In other words, diplomatic courtesy is one thing and royal politics is another.