More Migrants

Biden and Lopez Obrador must practice other policies when facing a problem that aggravates the pandemic.

The relationship between Mexico and the United States is going through one of the tensest moments in recent memory. Nevertheless, the first contact between the president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden, and the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, illuminates a new strategy in migration that, if implemented, would carry positive consequences a priori, not only for both countries but also for the region, and would reduce the criminalization of migrants, a usual trend of the Donald Trump administration.

Neither Lopez Obrador’s erroneous decision to not congratulate Biden until the Electoral College recognized his victory, nor the fact that the Mexican government has put an end to the presence of foreign agents in its country, with Americans being the most affected, has impeded the first conversation between both leaders from transmitting a ray of hope. Both presidents emphasized the need to encourage a new migration policy that, in practice, would mean stopping the heavy-handed rhetoric toward migrants promoted by Trump since his arrival to the White House in 2016, with the promise of building a wall on the border with Mexico, and the continuous attacks on both Mexican and Central American migrants.

The challenge that both countries have before them is tremendous, not only for the internal costs that will assumedly reverse the current policies, but also because an increase in migration from Central American countries is expected — countries whose economic conditions are even worse after the pandemic and whose inhabitants have been severely hit by two hurricanes that left entire communities underwater and millions of families homeless.

Biden, just like Lopez Obrador did at the time, comes into government with the promise of improving the treatment of migrants after four years of disgrace. The Mexican president had to walk back his intention of opening the southern border, and endured his migration policies after Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican products if he could not achieve slowing down the transit of migrants. Between measures, a massive Marshall Plan that the Mexican government had designed to assimilate migrants into its country was left adrift and the United States incentivized private investment in the south of Mexico and increased support to Central America. That plan requires the necessary collaboration of the Central American governments, many of whom have doubtful credibility in terms of respect for law and human rights, but above all, a new strategy between the governments of Mexico and the United States. Lopez Obrador and Biden should walk that path.

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