MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday the US Congress should focus on investing in people instead of building walls, hours before he was set to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss migration to the United States.
President Joe Biden’s administration is seeking help from Mr. Lopez Obrador’s government to stem migration flows and cope with record numbers of people trying to reach the US border, a key issue ahead of the US presidential election in November.
The meetings come after more than half a million migrants this year crossed the dangerous Darien Gap jungle into Central America – double last year’s record – many fleeing crime, poverty and conflict to seek entry into the United States.
Mr. Lopez Obrador, who last week assured the United States that Mexico would help ease migratory pressures, said the US Congress should be investing in poor people in Latin America and the Caribbean “instead of putting up barriers, barbed wire fences in the river, or thinking about building walls”.
“It is more efficient and more humane to invest in the development of the people and that is what we have always proposed, Mr. Lopez Obrador told a press conference.
Mr. Lopez Obrador added that he expects next year’s US election will bring the issue of migration to the forefront.
“We have to take care because campaigners use this issue as a rallying cry,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said.
Former US President Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has promised to crack down on illegal immigration and restrict legal immigration if elected to a second four-year term in office.
Mr. Trump focused on building a wall on the Mexico border during his first term and has pledged to close gaps in the border wall if reelected. His administration built 450 miles (725 km) of barriers across the 1,954-mile (3,145-km) border, but much of that replaced existing structures.
Mr. Lopez Obrador planned to meet midday in Mexico City with Mr. Blinken, who will also speak with Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena. The US delegation includes Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
A State Department spokesman said they will discuss “unprecedented irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere and identify ways Mexico and the United States will address border security challenges.”
On Wednesday, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers marched slowly north from southern Mexico in a caravan hoping to reach the US border, many carrying small children.
“We don’t need to go back to our country if we don’t have anything there,” said Nohemia Zendejas, a mother on the road with four children in tow. “I come from Venezuela and Venezuela is broken”. – Reuters