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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and U.S. President Joe Biden, held their first phone call together on Jan. 22. Photos: Getty Images
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and U.S. President Joe Biden, held their first phone call together on Jan. 22. Photos: Getty Images

Biden and AMLO speak: What does it mean for the US-Mexico relationship on immigration

Biden and AMLO finally speak, after the Mexican president delayed his recognition of Biden’s victory for weeks.

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In the first hours of his presidency, Joe Biden made it clear that immigration would be one of his first priorities. From reversing the Muslim ban, tackling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other sweeping reforms that would put millions of undocumented individuals on a path to citizenship. 

But immigration cannot be tackled without taking into account one of the United States’ closest neighbors: Mexico. Biden spoke to his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador (AMLO) last Friday, Jan. 22, in a conversation that centered on immigration, according to a phone call readout released by the White House. 

The call focused on regional migration in particular. Biden reportedly outlined his plan to reduce migration by addressing its “root” causes and improving the process for asylum.

Biden signaled he was also intent on reversing the Trump administration’s “draconian” immigration policies.

“The two leaders agreed to work closely to stem the flow of irregular migration to Mexico and the United States, as well as to promote development in the Northern Triangle of Central America. They also recognized the importance of coordination to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” the readout says.

AMLO later took to Twitter to say that his conversation with Biden was “respectful” and that they touched on topics related to immigration and tackling COVID-19. 

“Everything indicates that relations will be good for the good of our peoples and nations,” he wrote.

However, last Wednesday, Jan. 20, before the inauguration, AMLO expressed his intent for Biden to fulfil on several of his other campaign trail promises.

They include launching a comprehensive immigration plan that includes giving dual nationality to Mexicans working in the United States. AMLO indicated that he hopes for the migration plan to be released in the coming days, wondering “what it is going to consist of” and “how they are going to respect their right to be recognized, that they get dual nationality.”

AMLO said that Biden’s policies must also consider low-income Central Americans who venture through Mexico in search for a future in the US, reported Reuters, which added the Mexican President also indicated he is willing to combat the pandemic via bilateral effort.  

Biden’s “sweeping reforms” included introducing a path to citizenship for about 11 million people living in the US undocumented — an announcement that AMLO reportedly welcomed for Biden’s recognition of the Mexican migrant community. 

They also call for a total of $4 billion to be invested over four years into aid for the nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to help them address the problems that trigger migration to the U.S in the first place. 

It includes reinstating a program that grants minors from Central America temporary legal status in the US that was previously terminated in 2017. 

But the future of U.S. and Mexican diplomacy will no come without its snags

First, Alejandro Mayorkas’ confirmation to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary was delayed by none other than Sen. Josh Hawley. One may recall his recent involvement in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. 

When confirmed, Mayorkas will be the first Latino to serve as DHS Secretary. 

Mayorkas will be tasked with restoring trust with all immigrants and foreign nations that have been subject to the Trump administration’s policies of child separation, building a wall along the Southern Border, and multiple travel bans. 

It is to be seen what a DHS under Mayorkas will look like, but he is no stranger to foreign policy and Latin America — during times when tensions on immigration weren’t exactly the best. 

He previously served as Deputy DHS Secretary from 2013 to 2016, and as the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from 2009 to 2013 under President Obama, known for his record-breaking deportations.

Secondly, the Mexican President himself, waited for many weeks before he finally recognized Biden’s victory. AMLO is known to have had an unlikely friendship with Trump, and this was for many reasons, namely Trumps’ disinterest in Mexico’s energy ventures.

But as Biden has made it clear, immigration is the first priority — a category that he has yet to fully address. All other matters of foreign policy will likely be tackled in the future. 

For now, the U.S. relationship with Mexico is caught in a delicate balance.

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