WASHINGTON — President Biden will visit Mexico City next month for a meeting with the leaders of Canada and Mexico as the migrant crisis continues along the southern border.
The Jan. 9-10 trip, confirmed by White House spokesman John Kirby, coincides with record-breaking illegal border crossings, which could worsen if the Supreme Court allows the Title 42 COVID-19 expulsion policy to end.
It will be Biden’s first trip as president to Latin America, as well as his first to another Western Hemisphere nation, and will feature talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
López Obrador, known by his initials AMLO, has had a rocky relationship with Biden.
The 69-year-old leftist snubbed the Biden-hosted 2022 Summit of the Americas in June and supported the reinstatement of the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump.
Biden presided over a record-breaking nearly 2.4 million illegal border-crossing arrests in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30, and the number is expected to increase if Title 42 ends the ability of border agents to promptly turn around migrants citing public health concerns.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday paused a lower-court order to lift Title 42, which was set to expire Wednesday. It’s unclear how long the expedited challenge from 19 Republican-led states will last.
Hundreds of migrants released by border officials already are sleeping on the streets of El Paso, Texas, where Democratic Mayor Mayor Oscar Leeser on Saturday declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a border surge.
Biden canceled construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and ended Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy of requiring asylum seekers who traverse Mexico to wait south of the border for their claims of persecution to be reviewed.
The Mexican president gave Biden a PR black eye in June by skipping the Summit of the Americas — dashing Biden’s plans to showcase warmer relations than under Trump, who often gave stern warnings to Mexico’s government and even threatened to cut off trade over “caravans” of migrants passing through the country.
AMLO’s boycott meant the conference lacked the leader of the most populous Spanish-speaking country and it emboldened other leaders to sit out the event. The snub was motivated by Biden’s decision not to invite the authoritarian leftist leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
AMLO further ruffled Democrats’ feathers on Nov. 19 by tweeting that he believed Trump should be allowed to return to Twitter after the platform’s new CEO Elon Musk created a poll asking what to do about the former president, who was booted after last year’s Capitol riot.
“I already voted for Trump to be able to use Twitter. The Statue of Liberty must not remain an empty symbol,” López Obrador tweeted. Trump ultimately had his account restored but has yet to tweet from it.
Trump and AMLO developed a surprisingly warm relationship after working together to ratify the USMCA trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada, which replaced the NAFTA trade deal with various reforms, including to aid internal manufacturing, particularly of cars.
Biden’s trip to Mexico could have surprising fallout — particularly if he takes press-conference questions.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tapped by Biden last year to address the “root causes” of migration, visited Guatemala and Mexico in June 2021 and was greeted by Central American protesters who held a “Trump Won” banner. The trip was overshadowed by Harris’ struggle to explain her reluctance to visit the US-Mexico border, which she ultimately did weeks later.
Biden has not visited the border since taking office and it’s unclear if he ever made a specific visit there during his five-decade political career. The White House has provided reporters with just one example in which Biden “briefly drove past the border” after landing at El Paso’s airport in 2008 for an event in New Mexico. Biden’s motorcade took “a route that for a few minutes hugs the border of the United States and Mexico.”