Biden and López Obrador are eager to address migration issues

President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have pledged to work together to combat illicit fentanyl trafficking into the U.S. and manage the increasing number of migrants traveling to the border between their nations.

“Nothing is beyond our reach in my view if Mexico and the United States stand together and work together,” Biden said.

Biden’s relationship with López Obrador has at times been tense, in part due to Biden’s willingness to criticize Mexico on issues such as fentanyl production and the killing of journalists. López Obrador has also been willing to snub the U.S. leader, such as skipping a Los Angeles summit last year where leaders addressed the issue of migration. Despite this, the two men were all smiles and compliments before the press on Friday, with Biden telling López Obrador: “I couldn’t have a better partner than you,” and the Mexican leader calling Biden a “good man” and an “extraordinary president.” The two leaders were in San Francisco for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, where they discussed migration and the international policy with leaders from China, Japan, and South Korea.

Biden and López Obrador focused on migration challenges, as well as deadly fentanyl trafficking, particularly after Biden secured an agreement with Xi to curb the illicit opioid. Fentanyl and immigration are related issues, as human smuggling over the border is a part of cartel operations that also include drug trafficking into the U.S.

“We’re working side-by-side to combat organized crime,” Biden said.

Both leaders acknowledged the damage posed by fentanyl to the United States and the growing immigration challenges. Biden asked Congress for $14 billion for border security, but the temporary spending bill he signed did not include funding for the border.

Mexico’s support is crucial for the U.S. push to clamp down at the southern border. López Obrador praised the administration’s policies of cracking down on illegal crossings while opening up other legal pathways for others to come to the U.S. lawfully as “a humane way to address the migration phenomenon.”

Earlier this year, Mexico agreed to continue to accept migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua, and up to 100,000 people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador who have family in the U.S. will be eligible to live and work there.

The U.S. is also accepting 30,000 people per month from the four countries for two years and offering them the ability to work, as long as they come legally, have eligible sponsors, and pass vetting and background checks.

Guatemala and Colombia will open regional hubs where people can go to make asylum claims, but Mexico has so far refused to allow the U.S. to set one up. López Obrador expressed his intention to use the meeting with Biden to advocate for Cuba and to urge the U.S. to resume a dialogue with the island nation and end U.S. sanctions.

© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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