Mexico’s president said Wednesday that the U.S. Congress should offer more support to Latin America instead of putting up barriers and “building walls,” shortly before a scheduled meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on the surge in migration flows.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has also said that next year’s presidential election in the United States will push immigration to the top of the agenda.
“The migration issue will intensify,” he said.
Mr. Blinken was headed to Mexico City on Wednesday at a time when border crossings had reached record numbers. There have been days this month when U.S. Border Patrol encountered more than 10,000 people at the southern border.
That was a huge caravan it began its journey north on Sunday reflects the enormous challenges to be faced to stem the wave of migration. Local officials and media reports in Mexico estimate that between 6,000 and 10,000 people are making the journey.
The southern border has posed an ongoing political vulnerability for President Biden, who has struggled to keep numbers low even as he has sought to institute limits on access to asylum at the border and deport migrants to Venezuela and Cuba.
Immigration has also become central to congressional discussions over aid to Ukraine and Israel because Republicans have refused to approve the money without a new crackdown at the border.
López Obrador said Congress should examine “how to authorize resources for cooperation and support for the poor of Latin America and the Caribbean instead of erecting barriers, barbed wire fences on the river or thinking about building walls.”
“It is more efficient and more humane to invest in people’s development,” he said.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, White House national security adviser, will also participate in Wednesday’s meeting.
The migrant caravan made headlines in part because of its timing, right before Blinken’s visit. Migrant caravans have become a common phenomenon and are usually broken up by authorities well before they reach the US border.
The caravan, about 1,600 miles south of the U.S. border in the state of Chiapas, includes migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela and Haiti, among other countries.
In November, a smaller caravan dispersed after the officials took hundreds of migrants to local shelters.
Republicans have stepped up their attacks on Biden over the border numbers, an ongoing issue for the president as he seeks reelection next year. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law authorizing his state’s law enforcement agencies to arrest migrants who cross the border without authorization. (El Paso County challenged the measure in federal court last week.) The president has also faced pressure from Democratic city mayors over the increase in migrants arriving in their cities.
The increase in border crossings in recent weeks has forced border officials to do so close level crossings temporarily in El Paso and Eagle Pass, Texas, and to close the port of entry in Lukeville, Arizona. As level crossings reopen, Biden administration officials plan to talk with Mexican officials about closing ports of entry, officials said in a statement.
Last week, López Obrador briefed reporters on a phone call with Biden in which they agreed on the need for more border controls.
“We now find ourselves in an extraordinary situation because the number of migrants crossing our country with the purpose of reaching the United States has increased,” he said, adding that Mexico “will help us, as we always do.”
López Obrador said he shares with Biden the goal of strengthening containment measures in southern Mexico so that migrants and asylum seekers do not reach the border.
The other necessary component, he said, is to try to address the root causes of migration and help resolve political disputes in the region.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Friday that there were more than 190,000 apprehensions between ports of entry in November. US officials said they had “removed or repatriated” more than 400,000 people between May and the end of November.
“We face a serious challenge along the Southwest border, and CBP and our federal partners need increased resources from Congress – as outlined in the supplemental budget request – to enhance border security and America’s national security.” , Troy Miller, the interim leader of the border agency, said in a statement Friday.