Mexico on Tuesday pledged to spend $1.5 billion to beef up its northern border as its leader met with U.S. President Joe Biden, who faces attacks from Republicans over his handling of immigration on the United States’ southern flank.
WASHINGTON, (July 12, 2022).- In his long career as a U.S. senator, Joe Biden has sat through his share of lengthy speeches.
But sitting in the Oval Office on Tuesday, President Biden seemed a bit out of practice. During a meeting with Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Biden at turns smirked, grimaced, fidgeted, and took notes as the Mexican president launched into remarks that went on for more than half an hour.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pulls out his remarks in the Oval Office.
Pool/Chris Kelponis/Getty Images
Some 20 minutes into his remarks, López Obrador said he was getting ready to conclude. Biden broke into a big grin and laughed.
Speaking through an interpreter, the populist leader touched on everything from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s migrant policies, to the relative costs of American and Mexican gasoline, to lithium mining, and the need for broader, more predictable migration policies.
Biden made a point to tell his counterpart that he agreed with many of López Obrador’s broad points, that “our nations share close ties, family, and friendship.” Biden said policy differences between the two were often exaggerated by “overhyped headlines.”
President Biden’s prepared remarks lasted about 10 minutes.
Biden also touted cooperation between the two nations on targeting drugs — specifically fentanyl — as well as on tackling the root causes that lead people to migrate from Central and South America to Mexico and the United States.
But López Obrador’s visit to the White House came immediately on the heels of the Mexican president’s boycott of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last month. López Obrador refused to attend the U.S.-hosted conference because the Biden administration did not invite the authoritarian governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. That decision – and the White House’s frantic scramble to reverse it – cast a shadow over much of the summit.
And while not overtly hostile, some of López Obrador’s comments to Biden touched on politically embarrassing topics, like the high price of gasoline in the United States.
“While we’re waiting for prices or gasoline to go down in the United States,” López Obrador said at one point, “we have decided that it was necessary for us to allow Americans who live close to the border … to go and get their gasoline on the Mexican side at lower prices.”
López Obrador’s administration recently began subsidizing gasoline prices.