Top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas sat down with Mexico’s president on Wednesday as the U.S. grapples with a surge in migrants at the southern border. 

The issue has played a prominent role in domestic politics and has become tied to the fate of U.S. assistance to foreign countries as the Biden administration faces pressure to do more to address the influx. 

What You Need To Know

  • Top U.S. officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas sat down with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City on Wednesday
  • The U.S. is grappling with a surge in migrants at the border, with the issue playing a dominant role in domestic politics
  • The meeting follows President Joe Biden’s call with López Obrador last week in which the pair agreed additional enforcement actions are necessary, according to the White House 
  • Changes to U.S. border policy have also become tied to the fate of Biden’s request for billions in aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific

Blinken and Mayorkas were joined by White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall for Wednesday’s meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City. 

The group was set to discuss “unprecedented irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere” as well as paths to address challenges at the border and reopen ports of entry, according to a statement from the State Department ahead of the meeting. 

Three border crossings in Arizona and California have been closed or have seen operations partially suspended and last week the U.S. briefly closed two Texas railway crossings. 

“We have always talked about addressing the causes (of migration). The ideal thing is to help poor countries,” López Obrador said before the sit-down. He has previously said he is willing to help on the issue, but he wants to see progress in U.S. relations with Cuba and Venezuela, two of the top sources of migrants, along with more development aid for the region.

Wednesday’s meeting follows President Joe Biden’s call with López Obrador last week in which the pair “agreed that additional enforcement actions are urgently needed so that key ports of entry can be reopened across our shared border,” per a readout of the call from the White House. The president himself asked Blinken, Mayorkas and Sherwood-Randall to make the trip to Mexico City to continue the conversation, according to the readout. 

This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were arrested daily at the southwest U.S. border while Mexico says it detected 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023.

And the meeting comes as a caravan of about 6,000 migrants continued to walk through Mexico this week, putting another spotlight on the issue. 

Biden’s handling of the border is one of the GOP’s loudest criticisms of the Democratic president. For more than a year, the Republican governors of Texas and Florida have chartered buses and planes to send thousands of migrants arriving at the border to Democratic-led cities. 

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales, whose district in Texas includes hundreds of miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, called Blinken’s trip to Mexico “promising,” but said it is incumbent upon the U.S. to act first on the issue. 

“In reality, the first step to encouraging Mexico to do more is the United States to do more,” he said. “And what I’ve asked for is to surge immigration judges to the border, get cases heard in days, not years, and if folks do not qualify for asylum, which nine of out 10 people do not because they’re fleeing economic persecution, that you return them back to their country of origin via these deportation flights.” 

In October, the Biden administration resumed deportation flights of Venezuelans from the U.S., marking the first time in years that U.S. immigration authorities deported people to the South American nation. 

And Biden is also facing pressure from those within his own party on the issue as Democratic governors and mayors ask for more federal help in addressing the influx of migrants arriving in their cities. 

The topic has also become key to unlocking Biden’s national security supplemental funding request, which includes billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, Israel as it battles Hamas, the Indo-Pacific as China exerts its influence in the region and the border. 

Ukraine has become a sticking point in that request as a portion of the GOP, particularly in the House, push back on additional assistance to the country. Republicans in both chambers insist that any more aid must be accompanied by significant changes to U.S. border policy – a key priority of the party. 

A bipartisan group of senators have been engaged in negotiations over such potential border changes for weeks, with the White House recently ramping up the participation of some of its top officials. Despite some optimism expressed by both sides about the state of talks as the Senate left Washington for the holiday break, any major breakthrough remains elusive. 

Biden earlier this month said he was willing to make “significant compromises” on border policy as he made a forceful and urgent plea for Congress to continue to provide aid to Ukraine. 

Last month, Biden sat down with López Obrador himself in San Francisco at the end of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to discuss migration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Source link