Migration and the Border – Test of the Bilateral Relationship

President Joe Biden is running for reelection and seems willing to compromise on border proposals to get aid to Ukraine.

Just over six years ago, a caravan of migrants from Central America tested the relationship between Mexico and the United States. And it wasn’t for the better.

Today, a multinational caravan of migrants from Central America, South America and the Caribbean is once again testing the already complicated and now even more damaged but important bond between the two nations.

The caravan is moving forward from Chiapas as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration prepares to receive a U.S. delegation that includes Secretaryof State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as , White House Homeland Security Advisor

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

The previous line of immigrants, like the current one, gives substance to the arguments of former president and now Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, justifying his claims of an “invasion” and uncontrolled, and therefore unsafe, borders.

At the time, Trump openly pressured the Mexican government to stop migrants arriving at its border. The businessman has boasted of having obtained forced cooperation and the use of 27,000 troops to stop migrants in Mexico by threatening to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican exports to the U.S.

Now, as Trump and the Republicans seek to portray President Joe Biden as weak and ineffective, they point to the border crisis, including deaths caused by drug trafficking, particularly fentanyl, and the growing influx of migrants and asylum seekers without legal documentation.

To force Biden’s hand, the Republican majority in the House has conditioned approval of a military aid package to Ukraine, a major U.S. foreign policy issue, on a severe border adjustment. The adjustment includes a return to Trump’s proposed policies, such as building a border fence and creating a program to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be resolved.

The pressure is now political and, to some degree, economic. Biden is up for reelection and seems willing to compromise on border measures to obtain aid to Ukraine.

A seemingly fortuitous temporary closure of two border crossings highlighted the economic cost that a more structured closure could bring.

The cost would be high for both countries, given how they work together, but considerably more for Mexico, given its relative size: bilateral trade exceeds $600 billion annually and accounts for 80% of Mexican foreign trade.

Biden’s style provides more room for political gamesmanship, giving his counterpart the chance to show that Mexico is part of the decision and not just forced to accept the conditions.

The U.S. delegation comes to ask for help but also to warn that its government can and will take measures that would benefit from Mexican involvement and participation.

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