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Mexico could take in more US expelled migrants

The comments came as Lopez Obrador, Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gathered in Mexico City for a meeting of three North American leaders.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico. Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said on Monday he would consider accepting more migrants than previously announced under President Joe Biden’s plan to turn away people from four countries who cross the United States border illegally.

The comments came as Lopez Obrador, Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gathered in Mexico City for a meeting of three North American leaders.

“We don’t want to prejudge things, but that’s part of what we’ll be talking about at the summit,” Lopez Obrador said. “We support such measures to give people a choice, an alternative,” he said, adding that “the number can be increased.”

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, warned that nothing had yet been decided.

“What we need is to see how the program announced last week works in practice, what if this program needs to be adjusted, and then we can talk about the next steps,” he said.

The comments were a reflection of the very delicate immigration talks that will be the focus of the two-day summit. All three countries are participating in a collective effort to better support those arriving in North America and to enforce rules more strictly to make it harder for smugglers to persuade migrants to make dangerous trips to the US. Other issues on the summit table: climate change, energy and supply chain.

Sullivan said on Monday the trip would be “a good opportunity for President Biden to deepen his personal engagement with President Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister Trudeau.”

Ahead of the summit, Biden announced a policy change with the blessing of Mexico: The US will send 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela back across the border from among those who entered the US illegally. Migrants from these countries are not easily returned to their home countries for a variety of reasons.

And the 30,000 people a month from those four countries who get sponsors, background checks and airline travel will be able to legally work in the US for two years.

Biden arrived in Mexico Sunday night via the new Felipe Angeles International Airport, a prized project by the Mexican president. The hub was named last year with fanfare, even though it’s more than an hour north of downtown, has few flights and, until recently, had no permanent drinking water.

The two leaders made the long drive downtown in Biden’s limousine. López Obrador was fascinated by the presidential car, known as the “beast”, and said Biden showed it to him.

“He himself showed me how the buttons work,” Lopez Obrador said.

The Mexican president described the two leaders’ first meeting on the trip as “very pleasant” and said that “President Biden is a friendly man.”

It was a particularly warm comment given that the men’s relationship was businesslike at best and lacked the warmth and camaraderie that Biden has with some other world leaders.

López Obrador said they also discussed “the issue of migration … we agreed to address the causes of migration” by creating more opportunities for people not to have to migrate.

He also talked about the economic integration of nations, calling it “a dream that we can realize – to unite all the countries of America.”

En route to Mexico, Biden stopped in El Paso, Texas, for four hours, his first trip to the border as president and the longest trip on the US-Mexico line. The visit was tightly controlled and seemed to be meant to demonstrate the smooth operation of processing migrants who entered legally, weeding out smuggling, and humanely treating those who entered illegally. This would create a counter-narrative to Republican claims of a crisis situation equivalent to an open border.

But that is unlikely to help quell critics on both sides, including immigrant supporters, who accuse the Democratic president of pursuing a brutal policy not unlike that of his hardline Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has skyrocketed in Biden’s first two years in office. During the year ending September 30, there were over 2.38 million stops, the first time the number had exceeded 2 million. The administration has struggled to close the crossings, unwilling to take measures that would resemble those of the Trump administration.

López Obrador will formally welcome Biden at the National Palace later Monday, for the first time since Mexico hosted a U.S. president in 2014. The two leaders will meet together before a private dinner for all three leaders and their wives. Biden and Trudeau will have their own talks on Tuesday, and then the top three will meet for major summit discussions.

For the US, the main topics of discussion are migration, drug trafficking and the development of Biden’s push for electric cars and manufacturing. Mexico is focused on the economic integration of North America, support for the poor in America, and regional relations that put all governments on an equal footing. Canada is looking to expand environmental initiatives.

Although the three nations work together, they still have their differences.

The leaders of Canada and Mexico expressed concern about Biden’s “Buy American” plan. And while Biden’s push for electric vehicles is a boon to both US neighbors due to tax breaks on North American batteries, there are fears that US allies will be left behind.

Meanwhile, the US and Canada accuse López Obrador of trying to favor Mexico’s state-owned utility over power plants built by foreign and private investors, which is prohibited by the free trade agreement between the three countries.

Biden’s relationship with Trudeau is warmer, but he still hasn’t made it to Canada during his presidency, despite White House officials saying for months that he planned to head north after the Americas summit in Los Angeles last fall.

López Obrador missed the California summit because Biden didn’t invite the authoritarian regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. He also made no secret of his admiration for Trump. And he was one of three world leaders who did not recognize Biden’s election victory until the formal Electoral College vote and the Jan. 6 uprising in the US Capitol. But despite this, each of them recognizes the importance of the other.

“They are both consummate politicians,” Andrew Sely, head of the immigration think tank at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said of Biden and Lopez Obrador. what they need. It’s very transactional. There is no big relationship vision right now.”

For Biden, that meant flying to a new airport, one of four key projects Lopez Obrador is rushing to complete before his term expires next year as Mexico denies re-election. Other projects include an oil refinery, a tourist train in the Yucatan Peninsula, and a train linking the Gulf Coast and Pacific seaports.

López Obrador has faced much criticism over the airport, which is expected to cost $4.1 billion and was built after he canceled a partially built airport created by his predecessor. During the construction of Felipe Angeles in 2020, hundreds of mammoth skeletons were discovered.

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