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A US delegation to meet with Mexican government for talks on the surge of migrants at border – Austin Daily Herald

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A US delegation to meet with Mexican government for talks on the surge of migrants at border

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A top U.S. delegation is to meet with Mexico’s president Wednesday in what many see as a bid to get Mexico to do more to stem a surge of migrants reaching the U.S. southwestern border.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said he is willing to help, but also says he wants to see progress in U.S. relations with Cuba and Venezuela, two of the top senders of migrants, and more development aid for the region.

Both sides face strong pressure to reach an agreement after past steps like limiting direct travel into Mexico or deporting some migrants failed to stop the influx. This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were arrested daily at the southwest U.S. border.

The U.S. has struggled to process thousands of migrants at the border, or house them once they reach northern cities. Mexican industries were stung last week when the U.S. briefly closed two vital Texas railway crossings, arguing border patrol agents had to be reassigned to deal with the surge.

Another non-rail border crossing remained closed in Lukeville, Arizona, and operations were partially suspended in San Diego and Nogales, Arizona. U.S. officials said those closures were done to reassign officials to help with processing migrants.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left open the possibility those crossing could be reopened if Mexico provides more help.

“Secretary Blinken will discuss unprecedented irregular migration in the Western Hemisphere and identify ways Mexico and the United States will address border security challenges, including actions to enable the reopening of key ports of entry across our shared border,” his office said in a statement prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

Mexico already has assigned over 32,000 military troops and National Guard officers — about 11% of its total forces — to enforce immigration laws, and the National Guard now detains far more migrants than criminals.

But the shortcomings of that approach were on display Tuesday, when National Guard officers made no attempt to stop a caravan of about 6,000 migrants, many from Central America and Venezuela, when they walked through Mexico’s main inland immigration inspection point in southern Chiapas state, near the Guatemala border.

In the past, Mexico has let such caravans go through, trusting that they would tire themselves out walking along the highway. No caravan has ever walked the 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) to the U.S. border.

But wearing them out — by obliging Venezuelans and others to hike through the jungle-clad Darien Gap, or corralling migrants off passenger buses in Mexico — no longer works.

Many have simply found other ways. So many migrants have been hopping freight trains through Mexico that one of the country’s two major railroad companies was forced to suspend trains in September because of safety concerns.

Actual police raids to pull migrants off railway cars — the kind of action Mexico took a decade ago — might be one thing the American delegation would like to see.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall will also be in on the meeting.

One thing the U.S. has already done is show that one country’s problems on the border quickly become both countries’ problems.

The Texas railway closures put a chokehold on freight moving from Mexico to the U.S., as well as grain needed to feed Mexican livestock moving south.

López Obrador confirmed last week that U.S. officials want Mexico to do more to block migrants at its southern border with Guatemala, or make it more difficult to move across Mexico by train or in trucks or buses, a policy known as “contention.”

But the president said that in exchange he wanted the United States to send more development aid to migrants’ home countries, and to reduce or eliminate sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

“We are going to help, as we always do,” López Obrador said. “Mexico is helping reach agreements with other countries, in this case Venezuela.”

“We also want something done about the (U.S.) differences with Cuba,” López Obrador said. “We have already proposed to President (Joe) Biden that a U.S.-Cuba bilateral dialogue be opened.”

“That is what we are going to discuss, it is not just contention,” he said.

Mexico says it detected 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023.

In May, Mexico agreed to take in migrants from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba who had been turned away by the U.S. for not following rules that provided new legal pathways to asylum and other forms of migration.

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