US and Mexico look to stem ‘unprecedented’ migrant flow

Antony Blinken waves from the plane as he departs at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango, Mexico
Image caption,Antony Blinken led the closed-door negotiations for the US side

By Matt Murphy

BBC News, Washington

The US and Mexico have vowed to crack down on migrant smugglers as a growing migration crisis causes chaos on their shared border.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador discussed how to stop the flow of people in talks held in Mexico City.

The high-level meeting came as pressure grows on the White House to stem the influx of migrants to the US.

US officials said last week that up to 10,000 people were crossing every day.

On X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Mr Blinken said the US is committed to resolving “shared challenges” with Mexico including “unprecedented irregular migration flows”, drug trafficking and re-opening ports of entry.

Speaking to journalists on Mr Blinken’s flight back to Washington, a senior Biden administration official said that Mexico’s delegation shared plans to crack down on migrant smugglers, whom officials say have been moving migrants en masse to the border on trucks and trains.

“We were really impressed by some of the new actions that Mexico is taking, and we have seen in recent days a pretty significant reduction in border crossings,” the official was quoted as saying by the Agence France Press (AFP) news agency.

The official added, however, that the US would “never draw conclusions based on day-to-day fluctuations” of migrant numbers and would continue to monitor the situation in the new year.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Alicia Barcena, told reporters that the negotiations also focused on the “economic part” and the “structural causes of migration”.

Mexico’s president gave a positive assessment of the talks, saying on X that the two sides came to “important agreements” but offering few details as Mr Blinken left.

Speaking ahead of the summit he had called for more efforts to address the root causes of migration and warned that it could become a key issue in the 2024 US election.

Former president Donald Trump has taken an increasingly hard-line stance on the border and will reportedly unleash a massive crackdown on undocumented migrants if returned to office next year.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (C), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C-L), and Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alicia Barcena (C-R) during a working meeting at the National Palace in Mexico City
Image caption,President López Obrador and Antony Blinken met in Mexico to address the spike in migration flows

The meeting in Mexico City came on the same day as the mayors of three US cities – New York City, Denver and Chicago – held a joint virtual press conference to address efforts to mitigate what officials have described as a migrant “crisis” in those areas.

Additionally, for the first time on Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed an executive order requiring bus charter companies to provide 32 hours’ notice of migrant arrivals in the city and limiting the times of day in which migrants can reach the city. Last week, 14 buses carrying migrants arrived from Texas in a single night, an all-time high.

The number of people apprehended at the US southern border exceeded two million, both in the 2022 and the 2023 fiscal years.

US Customs and Border Protection [CBP] officials said in a statement on Friday that there were more than 190,000 apprehensions in November alone.

The figures have become a political vulnerability for Mr Biden, with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refusing to allocate new military funding to support Ukraine without a commitment to reinforce the border.

Ahead of the meeting attention in US media turned to a migrant caravan of about 7,000 people which is making its way towards the US from southern Mexico.

At least 7,000 migrants are estimated to have joined the caravan which started in southern Mexico
Image caption,At least 7,000 migrants are estimated to have joined the caravan which started in southern Mexico

The caravan left from the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, near the country’s southern border with Guatemala, on Christmas Eve.

Its leaders carried a banner reading “Exodus from poverty”.

So far, the caravan – reportedly made up of http://frutangjeruk.com/ migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti and other countries – is about 1,000 miles south of the US border.

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