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White House says meeting with Mexican president was "productive," amid record migrant crossings

U.S., Mexico hold high-stakes border meeting
U.S., Mexico hold high-stakes border meeting 03:01

President Biden dispatched top officials to Mexico City this week for a meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that the White House described as "productive." It came as migrants are crossing the U.S. border in record numbers and Congress has been unable to reach a consensus on funding border security. 

The White House National Security Council said in a statement Thursday that "López Obrador has taken significant new enforcement actions yet we have a lot more work to do together," and that top White House officials will meet again with Mexican leaders in Washington in January. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Mr. Biden's homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall traveled to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with López Obrador.

Senior Biden administration officials said late Wednesday that the meeting lasted over two hours. One senior administration official said that Mexico "came prepared to share a plan with us on how they were taking the work that they are already doing" to help stem the flow of migrants into the border. 

"We have seen in recent days a pretty significant reduction in in border crossings," one of the officiasl said. "So again, this is not something that the U.S. and Mexico will be able to address on or off on their own. So I would say the majority of our conversation actually focused on work that we're doing together in the region." 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and other officials on controlling migration, in Mexico City on Dec. 27, 2023.  RODRIGO OROPEZA/AFP via Getty Images

The senior administration officials said Mexico agreed on the need to crack down on smuggling. 

They also said Blinken and López Obrador discussed "legal pathways" for migrants, which one official described as one of the "strong intersecting interests between President Biden and President López Obrador." 

The meeting came as mayors of New York, Chicago and Denver said Wednesday that they have no more capacity for migrant arrivals, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has continued to send migrants to those cities. 

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said Wednesday that all three cities "have reached a point where we are either close to capacity, or nearly out of room."

"Without significant intervention from the federal government, this mission will not be sustained," Johnson said.   

In response to the mayors, White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a statement that federal immigration clinics have provided assistance to roughly 10,000 migrants in applying for work permits. He he noted that Temporary Protected Status and work permit applications are being decided in 30 days on average. 

The White House said last week that Mr. Biden spoke to López Obrador about "ongoing efforts to manage migratory flows in the Western Hemisphere." The two leaders "agreed that additional enforcement actions are urgently needed so that key ports of entry can be reopened across our shared border," the White House said. 

The visit comes after Border Patrol processed nearly 50,000 migrants who entered the U.S. illegally in just five days last week. In November, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 191,000 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border unlawfully. This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were apprehended daily at the southern border. 

Mexico's president said last week he's willing to help address the issue, but he wants the U.S. to provide more aid to the region and ease sanctions Cuba and Venezuela. 

"We have always talked about addressing the causes [of migration]. The ideal thing is to help poor countries," López Obrador said, according to the Associated Press

In the U.S., Congress has debated border policy changes for weeks as part of a larger package including assistance to Ukraine and Israel. To convince Republicans — who want harsher border security measures — to support more foreign aid, Democrats are considering drastic limits on asylum and increased deportations. 

Camilo Montoya Galvez contributed to this report. 

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