U.S. and Mexican presidents meet virtually
WASHINGTON – Instead of talking about building high walls, the U.S. president tried to remove some obstacles in relations with his southern neighbor.
In a virtual meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Joe Biden noted the “long and complicated” history of relations between the two countries, which “have not always been perfect neighbors.”
“We are safer when we work together – whether it’s dealing with our shared border or taking control of a pandemic,” Biden said in a conversation with Lopez Obrador.
According to Biden, when he was a vice president in Barack Obama’s administration, it was decided to “build a relationship with Mexico as an equal, not treat it simply as a country south of the border” of the United States.
“You are just like us,” Biden said.
Lopez Obrador, who appeared on video screens in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, said that “integration will serve to strengthen both countries.”
He also thanked Biden for his desire to build a relationship based on respect and equality, adding that the U.S. and Mexico “must continue to work together to further development based on independence and autonomy.”
The meeting, held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the White House, was meant to “open a new phase” in bilateral relations, marking a transition to a different path than the one they took under the previous U.S. president.
During his four-year reign, Donald Trump, whom Biden succeeded in January, has threatened Mexico with duties, suppressed migration, and said the southern neighbor would pay to build a wall on their 3,100-kilometer shared border.
Mexico has not paid for the wall, and Trump, in his first speech since leaving office, accused the Biden administration of leaving the border wall unfinished.
Trump also criticized his successor for dismantling other elements of his tough policies on immigration and border security.
Before the meeting between Biden and the Mexican president, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas announced measures that would allow migrant families separated at the border to be reunited and stay in the United States, a rejection of Trump’s approach.
Mallorcas said the administration is “working around the clock to replace the brutality of the previous administration with an orderly, humane and safe immigration process.”
“It’s complicated and will take time,” he added.
Previous Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who served under Trump, disagreed with that criticism. He tweeted that Mallorcas’ claims that there is no crisis at the southern border “defies logic, reality and facts.”
“Ask the people who live near the border,” he wrote.