WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will meet virtually on Friday with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as immigration at the border has become a major issue for the Biden administration.
The White House said the two leaders “plan to discuss cooperation on migration, joint development efforts in Central America, competitiveness and economic growth, security, energy, and economic cooperation.”
They also will talk about the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which the United States will host in Los Angeles in June and convenes leaders from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The meeting Friday comes just a few days after a federal judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security to halt its efforts to lift a public health order known as Title 42 that was issued because of the Covid pandemic, a policy that allows the swift expulsion of migrants at the border with the stated aim of preventing the spread of Covid.
The administration had planned to end the public health order on May 23, and Republicans have focused on the planned repeal as a point of attack on Democrats over immigration as the primaries for the midterm elections are set to begin. They’ve denounced the effort to lift the order, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., visiting the border earlier this week with other GOP lawmakers to speak with Border Patrol agents about the issue.
Roughly 8,000 migrants per day are currently crossing the southern border, according to internal Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News — figures that could lead April to top March’s record high for border apprehensions. The Biden administration predicts roughly 12,000 migrants per day will begin crossing the border if Title 42 is lifted. About half of the migrants encountered are turned back across the border and prevented from seeking asylum. When Title 42 is lifted, immigrants will be allowed to live in the United States while they pursue asylum claims, a process that can take between two to four years.
The Biden administration has also sought to end a Trump administration policy known as “Remain in Mexico” that requires people seeking asylum at the southern border, mainly from Central and South America, to wait in Mexico while their claims are decided. That plan drew a lawsuit from Texas and Missouri, which is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.