Hamilton Journal News
Biden, Mexican president meet amid migration issues
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden met virtually Monday with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — a chance for the pair to talk more fully about migration, confronting the coronavirus and cooperating on economic and national security issues.
“This is what I know, the United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together,” Biden told López Obrador at the outset of the meeting, alluding to past differences between the two countries. “We’re safer when we work together. Whether it’s addressing the challenges of our shared border, or getting this pandemic under control.”
López Obrador had said he intends during the meeting to propose to Biden a new immigrant labor program that could bring 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American immigrants a year to work legally in the United States.
A senior Biden administration official declined to say whether Biden would back or oppose the proposal, saying only that both countries agree on the need to expand legal pathways for migration. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations. Asked about the López Obrador’s proposal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that reinstituting the Bracero program would require action by Congress.
The original “Bracero” program allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the United States to fill labor shortages during World War II and for a couple of decades after the war. López Obrador said the U.S. economy needs
Mexican workers because of “their strength, their youth.”
On Monday, López Obrador said his new proposal would be a program not only for agriculture workers but for other sectors and professionals.
The White House also signaled that Biden was not willing to budge on another López Obrador request — to send U.S. manufactured coronavirus vaccines to his country. Psaki said Biden would not agree to the move, saying the president was first focused on getting Americans vaccinated. A similar posture toward Canada has also proved to be a wrinkle in that relationship.
The Biden official said the meeting will help Biden begin to institutionalize the relationship with Mexico, rather than let it be determined by tweets — a preferred form of diplomacy by his predecessor, Donald Trump.