Blinken and Mayorkas visit Mexico as enormous caravan of migrants heads north from South America
A senior delegation of U.S. officials flew to Mexico on Wednesday to address record numbers of people crossing the border illegally as a caravan of about 6,000 migrants makes its way through the country.
The visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is widely seen as an opportunity for the Biden administration to increase pressure on Mexico to tighten border security ahead of next year's presidential election.
But the Mexican president got his answer first, saying the U.S. Congress should provide more aid to Latin America instead of “building walls.”
Andrés Manuel López Obrador also warned his guests that the political problem would only worsen ahead of the 2024 elections.
“The migration problem will continue to grow,” he said.
Blinken was expected to arrive in Mexico City at a time when Border Patrol agents were encountering more than 10,000 people a day trying to cross the border.
About 6,000 people are making their way through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told his guests that the issue would only worsen
Both sides in the talks are under pressure to reach an agreement after previous steps, such as limiting direct travel to Mexico or deporting certain migrants, failed to stem the influx.
The US is struggling to process thousands of migrants at the border and house them once they reach northern cities.
The Mexican industry was hammered last week when the U.S. briefly closed two crucial railroad crossings in Texas, arguing that Border Patrol agents should be redeployed to deal with the surge.
Another non-rail border crossing remained closed in Lukeville, Arizona, and operations were partially suspended in San Diego and Nogales, Arizona.
The US delegation has made clear that action to deter lawbreakers could reopen border crossings.
“Secretary Blinken will discuss unprecedented irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere and identify ways in which Mexico and the United States will address border security challenges, including actions to enable the reopening of key points of entry across our shared border,” he said. office prior to the trip.
Last week, President Joe Biden spoke with his Mexican counterpart to discuss the crisis and emphasize the urgency of tackling it.
Mexico says it detected 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023.
Mexico has assigned more than 32,000 soldiers and National Guard officers – about 11 percent of the total force – to enforce immigration laws, and the National Guard now detains far more migrants than criminals.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango, Mexico
Migrants rest on train cars as they wait for a freight train to travel to the US border, at a rail yard in Chihuahua, Mexico
But the shortcomings of that approach were on display Tuesday, when National Guard officers made no attempt to stop a caravan of about 6,000 migrants, many from Central America and Venezuela, from passing through Mexico's main domestic immigration inspection point in the southern state of Chiapas, near Guatemala. border.
In the past, Mexico has allowed such caravans to pass through, confident that they would tire themselves walking along the highway.
On Wednesday, Lazara Padrón Molina, 46, from Cuba, was sick and exhausted. The caravan left the town of Tapachula on December 24 and had walked about 72 kilometers through the heat to Escuintla in the southern state of Chiapas.
'The route is too long to continue walking. Why don't they just give us the documents so we can take a bus or taxi?' said Padron Molina.
“Look at my feet,” she said, showing blisters. 'I can't go any further.'
But exhausting migrants — by forcing Venezuelans and others to hike through the jungle-covered Darien Gap, or barring migrants from passenger buses in Mexico — no longer appears to be working.
So many migrants have been hopping freight trains through Mexico that one of the country's two largest railroads halted the trains in September over safety concerns. Police raids to remove migrants from train cars — the kind of action Mexico took a decade ago — could be something the U.S. delegation would like to see.
The visit of Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas is seen as an opportunity for the Biden administration to increase pressure
U.S. border authorities are so overwhelmed that they have suspended several legal border crossings to focus on processing migrants
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador discussed migration in a phone call with Biden on Thursday as migrants slept outside on Christmas Day
Migrants walk along the banks of the Rio Grande after crossing the border into Eagle Pass, Texas, one of a number of border towns hampered by this year's massive influx of migrants
A few blocks from Mexico City's main square — where Blinken will meet López Obrador at the national palace — migrants stayed in a makeshift shelter near a church, gathering strength before heading further north.
David Peña, his two daughters and his pregnant wife, Maryeris Zerpa, hoped to reach the United States before the child is born in about a month.
“The goal is to cross so the baby will be born there,” Peña said. But because there was no asylum agreement, he had no idea how the family would enter.
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall will also attend the meeting.
The US has shown that one country's problems at the border quickly become the problems of both countries. The railroad closures in Texas hampered freight moving from Mexico to the U.S., as well as the grain needed to feed Mexican livestock moving south.
López Obrador confirmed last week that U.S. officials want Mexico to do more to stop migrants at its southern border with Guatemala, or make it more difficult to move through Mexico by train, trucks or buses, a policy known as ” conflicts'.
But the president said that in return he wanted the United States to send more development aid to the migrants' home countries and reduce or eliminate sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela.
“We are going to help, as we always do,” López Obrador said. 'Mexico helps to make agreements with other countries, in this case Venezuela.'
He said Mexico has proposed to President Joe Biden the opening of a bilateral dialogue between the US and Cuba.
In May, Mexico agreed to accept migrants from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba that had been rejected by the U.S. for not following rules that provided new legal pathways to asylum and other forms of migration.