Andrés Manuel López Obrador Mexican president attend his morning press conference in Palacio Nacional. – Mexico City, Mexico November 19th 2019 (Shutterstock)
By The Guardian
Joe Biden discussed his plans to reverse Donald Trump’s immigration policies with Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, according to a phone call readout released by the White House on Saturday.
The new US president outlined his plan to reduce migration by focusing on “addressing its root causes”, the readout said, including efforts to increase “resettlement capacity and lawful alternative immigration pathways” and to improve processing at the US-Mexico border.
The two leaders agreed to work together towards reducing “irregular migration”, the White House said. López Obrador tweeted that Biden had been “kind and respectful”.
“We discussed issues related to migration, Covid-19, and cooperation for development and welfare,” he said. “Everything indicates that relations will be good for the good of our people.”
It was reported that López Obrador also welcomed Biden’s recognition of the Mexican migrant community’s contributions to American life.
Biden’s first steps on immigration policy – including an early push to open a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living in the US illegally, which even allies in Congress acknowledge may be “a Herculean task” – have prompted an immediate backlash from the right.
The new president’s nominee for secretary of homeland security, and thus oversight of immigration policy, has been held up in the Senate.
Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, placed a hold on Alejandro Mayorkas, who was both deputy homeland security secretary and director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) under Barack Obama, when Biden was vice-president.
Earlier this month, Hawley expressed support for pro-Trump rioters who invaded the US Capitol, and on the same day objected to electoral college results in the Senate in an attempt to overturn Biden’s victory.
The senator, who faces calls for censure or expulsion regarding his actions on 6 January, cited concern about Biden’s immigration plans.
Hawley claimed Mayorkas, the architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields from deportation undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, had “declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system”.
Biden has ordered the end of construction on the wall, a flagship Trump project.
Mayorkas was last confirmed by the Senate in 2013, before the release of a government report in which individuals “throughout the ranks of USCIS” complained that he had intervened to benefit wealthy foreign investors seeking EB-5 visas.
In Texas, state attorney general Ken Paxton has sued the Biden administration over its decision to pause deportations.
The lawsuit filed in US district court alleges that the new administration “cast aside congressionally enacted immigration laws and suspended the removal of illegal aliens whose removal is compelled by those very laws”.
“In doing so,” the suit says, “it ignored basic constitutional principles and violated its written pledge to work cooperatively with the state of Texas to address shared immigration enforcement concerns.”
On Friday, days after a caravan of migrants from Honduras was broken up at the Guatemala border, the governments of the US, Mexico, and Guatemala agreed to prohibit the passage of such caravans.
“Regarding any intention to form a caravan, our message is clear: our border remains closed for those who try to enter illegally,” said William Popp, US ambassador to Guatemala.
According to reports, the caravan from Honduras was stopped by Guatemalan police who fired tear gas. Police estimated that at least 6,000 of 9,000 people in the caravan entered Guatemala before being turned back.
Many such migrants, hoping to reach the US, are driven by an increasingly desperate situation in Honduras, where Covid-19 and two major hurricanes have worsened the effects of poverty and gang violence.
Despite the caravan being stopped more than a thousand miles from the US border, right-leaning US news outlets sought to report its progress as proof that Biden’s immigration policies will lead to increased pressure at the US-Mexico border.
The liberal media watchdog Media Matters reported that on Thursday 10 Fox News shows featured video of migrant caravans. It also said no Fox News show covered Biden and immigration without featuring such imagery.
Media Matters also reported that Tucker Carlson, a prime time Fox News host, claimed Biden was protecting “criminals, rapists, murderers, other people who are dangerous to you and me” and said “every poor person in the world” will now try to “sneak into America”.