Earlier this month a U.S. delegation, including Secretaries Nielsen (DHS) and Pompeo (State), visited Mexico and met with President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). AMLO sent the party back with a letter addressed to President Trump. The letter, finally published this weekend, addresses four priorities for the future of U.S.-Mexico relations: trade, migration, development, and security.
Regarding migration, AMLO wrote the following:
I must say that the most essential goal of my government will be to ensure that Mexicans do not have to migrate because of poverty or violence. We will try to make emigration optional and not necessary. We will strive to ensure that people find work and well-being in their places of origin, where their families, their customs and their cultures are. To achieve this fundamental objective, the incoming government will carry out the greatest effort ever undertaken in Mexico.
AMLO suggests that in order to curb the need for Mexican emigration, his government will focus on battling corruption, abolishing impunity, and fostering public and private investment for the country's development:
From the first of December of this year, we will have more public investment which will be used as seed capital to encourage private investment and to allocate significant budgets to production, job creation, reactivation of the agricultural and energy sector, education, culture, and health; as well as the financing of regional development from south to north, with the implementation of projects to retain the population in their towns, expanding opportunities for work and well-being.
For example, the president-elect proposes to plant a million hectares of fruit and timber trees in southeast Mexico, not only for ecological restoration, but to create 400,000 jobs. AMLO also proposes the construction of a railway line, noting that it will generate "an important number of jobs and will prevent the young people from the region from emigrating north in search of work." Similarly, AMLO notes the need to develop Mexico's northern border in an effort to retain workers in Mexico.
The letter to President Trump also addressed the issue of Central American migration. AMLO wrote:
I believe that the migratory problem should be addressed in a comprehensive manner, through a development plan that includes the Central American countries, where millions of inhabitants do not have work opportunities and are forced to leave their towns to make a living and mitigate their hunger and poverty.
In addition, AMLO explains his government would be willing to present the initiative and a budget proposal to the Mexican congress, to contribute with economic resources and its own experience in this joint effort. He proposes the following:
If the United States and Mexico participate in this plan, and include the Central American countries, each one contributing according to the size of its economy, we could collect a considerable amount of resources for the development of the region, of which 75 percent would be directed to finance projects to create jobs and fight poverty, and the remaining 25 percent, [would be directed to] border control and security. In this way, I reiterate, we would be addressing the causes that originate the migratory phenomenon. At the same time, each government, from Panama to the Rio Grande, would work to make the migration of their citizens economically unnecessary and take care of their borders to prevent the illegal transit of goods, weapons and drug trafficking, which we consider to be the most humane and effective guarantee of peace, tranquility and security of our peoples and nations.
As expected, AMLO's take on migration issues largely maintains a domestic lens. His campaign hinged on a "Mexico first" point of view. On the issue of migration, AMLO will have to balance pressure from the Mexican public to take a more assertive stance against President Trump and the pragmatic need to keep a healthy relationship with the United States. With this letter, AMLO appears to be trying to maintain such a balance. He is sending the message that Mexico will not allow the United States to set the agenda, but it is also willing to maintain amicable relations with its northern neighbor. So it remains to be seen to what degree AMLO will continue President Peña Nieto's cooperation with the United States as it pertains to enforcing Mexico's own southern border.