U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday called migration a shared “hemispheric challenge” in a meeting with Mexico’s leader while also saying the two countries would make infrastructure investments at the border and work to disrupt drug smuggling.
The meeting at the White House comes a month after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador skipped the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles to protest Biden’s decision to exclude the leftist governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
“Despite the overhyped headlines we sometimes see, you and I have a strong, productive relationship,” Biden said in remarks with his Mexican counterpart before the meeting.
Lopez Obrador said there was room to intensify bilateral relations under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) and that some tariffs could be suspended, although he did not specify which ones.
Lopez Obrador said some Americans are traveling to Mexico to purchase gasoline amid high prices in the United States and pledged to guarantee twice as much supply to meet that demand.
While Biden highlighted an existing commitment to increase temporary work visas for Central Americans, neither leader announced new migration commitments in the news conference before the meeting.
Mexico’s interior minister said on June 22 the United States had agreed to offer 300,000 work visas, with about half for Mexicans and the rest for Central Americans.
However, Mexican officials have since told Reuters they are skeptical that a concrete U.S. commitment will be made, pointing to caution inside the Biden administration that this could open it up to Republican criticisms on immigration.
A U.S. official said access to visas would be a topic of conversation between the leaders.
Lopez Obrador on Tuesday morning met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden’s point person on efforts to address the root causes of migration in Central America, including poverty, violence and climate change.
Leaning out of his hotel window to address a crowd of cheering supporters including a mariachi band earlier in the day, Lopez Obrador said he would push for orderly migration so that migrants do not suffer.
“The main thing is the defense of our migrant countrymen,” he said.