On Monday, talks between US President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are expected to focus on regional migration and drug smuggling.
Biden landed in Mexico City late Sunday after his first trip to the southern US border since entering office.
He will meet one-on-one with Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday and Tuesday, as part of the “Three Amigos” conference.
While trade and environmental issues are also on the agenda, Biden has prioritized a surge in irregular migration and lethal drug trafficking during his first trip to Mexico as president.
“Our border problems did not arise overnight,” Biden tweeted following his arrival. “They will not be resolved overnight. However, we can work together to repair this dysfunctional system. We can secure the border and make immigration more orderly, fair, secure, and humane.”
Biden stopped in El Paso, Texas, a city at the heart of the volatile border, for many hours on his way to Mexico.
He visited with US officials at the Bridge of the Americas crossing, where he witnessed a display of cutting-edge border enforcement technology and a customs sniffer dog. He later exited his motorcade to observe a stretch of the massive barrier that runs between El Paso and its Mexican twin city Juarez.
“They require a large amount of resources. “We’re going to get it for them,” Biden said after visiting the customs checkpoint.
Remodel of Asylum
Biden is under intense political pressure in the face of escalating illegal border crossings and asylum applications from people fleeing repressive, impoverished, or violent nations in the region.
A increase in cross-border smuggling of the highly addictive and often lethal drug fentanyl has exacerbated the issue.
Biden’s visit was intended to counter Republican charges that he was neglecting the situation.
But, as Biden stepped off Air Force One at El Paso International Airport, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott gave him a letter criticizing the visit as “$20 billion too little and two years too late.”
Biden will discuss the regional scope of the issue with Lopez Obrador and Trudeau during his talks.
“It’s gripping the continent, and a regional crisis necessitates a regional response,” said US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying that migrants were arriving from as far away as Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
On Thursday, Biden announced an increase of authority to deport immigrants who arrive at the border without authorization.
Simultaneously, a legitimate, strictly enforced avenue for up to 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela will be established.
The quota will be limited to individuals who already have a sponsor in the United States, and anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be ejected in collaboration with Mexico.
Human rights groups slammed the move as closing the door to needy people, but the Biden administration claims that its efforts will effectively extinguish the market for human smuggling networks while boosting legal immigration.
According to an AFP correspondent on the scene, a line of migrants, some with children in their arms, were deported from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez on Sunday, just ahead of Biden’s arrival in Mexico.
Venezuelan Jose David Melendez told AFP that border officials caught him at a chapel where he was seeking safety.
“The police officers from the border patrol came and assaulted us, made us run, pointed guns at us, aimed at children with firearms. “Where have our human rights gone?” The 25-year-old explained.
“People have the right to freedom, to have something better – it’s hard to survive in our nation,” deported Cuban migrant Lorenzo Escobar, 36, told AFP.
War on drugs versus development?
In 2021, the United States and Mexico unveiled a new strategy to combat drug trafficking in order to address the core causes of migration, promote economic development, and strengthen controls on cross-border arms smuggling.
Mexico has been plagued by cartel-related killings, with over 340,000 people killed since the government launched the drug war in 2006.
Days before Biden’s arrival, Mexican authorities apprehended the son of famed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is serving a life term in a US prison.
The US had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Ovidio Guzman’s arrest, accusing him of being a significant participant in his father’s Sinaloa cartel.
Climate change and clean energy cooperation will also be discussed at the summit, with Mexico seeking to benefit from Washington’s efforts to reduce its reliance on Asian manufacturing.