Substantive Immigration Discussion Missing in Biden Call with Mexican President

By Robert Law on March 3, 2021

On March 1, President Biden hosted Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) for a virtual bilateral meeting. The meeting marked the second time these heads of state have spoken since Biden's inauguration. In light of the growing crisis at the southern border fueled by the Biden administration's non-enforcement policies, concerned citizens would expect that the two presidents had a robust discussion about immigration and border security. While immigration was one of the three topics discussed, along with Covid-19 and climate change, there is no indication that the two leaders spoke substantively about immigration.

According to a transcript the White House published of each president's opening remarks in front of journalists, President Biden made just one passing reference to immigration while President Lopez Obrador did not address the issue at all. For President Biden, he merely said the U.S. and Mexico are "safer when we work together, whether it's addressing the challenges of our shared border or getting this pandemic under control." Upon the conclusion of President Lopez Obrador's remarks, the two leaders were abruptly rushed out of the room and the remainder of the meeting was held behind closed doors.

The joint declaration the White House published after the meeting was similarly uninformative. Under the heading "Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation on Migration", the declaration only included three run-on sentences that borrowed heavily from language contained in the policy section of the many immigration executive orders President Biden has already penned. While recognizing the "imperative of orderly, safe, and regular migration", the statement is devoid of a commitment to securing each country's respective southern borders and vigorously enforcing their respective immigration laws to discourage future illegal immigration. Instead, the two presidents will "collaborate" on addressing the "root causes of regional migration", improving "migration management", and developing "legal pathways for migration".

That is the extent of the information the White House is providing to the American people. Each of those topics is so vague and undefined that they become meaningless in the absence of context. It was reported ahead of the meeting that President Lopez Obrador intended to pitch a massive work visa program just for Mexican and Central American nationals in the neighborhood of 600,000 to 800,000 foreign workers per year.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki downplayed the foreign worker program idea as requiring congressional action. Considering Biden was vice president when President Obama unilaterally and unlawfully created two work programs by executive fiat (DACA and work permits for certain H-4 spouses of H-1Bs), what is to stop him from bypassing Congress and ramming through another new foreign work program? Either the two leaders did not bother having a detail-oriented dialogue about the ongoing immigration crisis or the White House is intentionally withholding from the American public the full extent of the conversation. The American people deserve transparency and blue-collar Americans who voted for Biden must be wondering if that ballot is being exchanged for a pink slip.

Topics: Mexico, Politics