Blinken heads to Mexico as migrant caravan moves toward US border

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to Mexico City on Wednesday to discuss the rise of illegal immigration as thousands of migrants pass through southern Mexico in a mass movement to the United States.

Blinken will meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a time when border crossings have reached record numbers. There have been days this month when Border Patrol encountered more than 10,000 people at the southern border.

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, White House national security adviser, will also participate in Wednesday’s meeting.

That was a huge caravan it began its journey north on Sunday it is a sign of the enormous challenges to be faced to stem the wave of migration. Local officials and media reports in Mexico estimate that between 6,000 and 10,000 people are making the journey.

The southern border has posed an ongoing political vulnerability for President Biden, who on his first day in office promised to “restore humanity and American values ​​to our immigration system” after the sweeping restrictions of the Trump years.

But Biden has struggled to keep the numbers low, even as he sought to institute limits on access to asylum at the border and deporting migrants to Venezuela and Cuba.

Although migrant caravans have become a common phenomenon and are usually dispersed by authorities well before reaching the US border, the latest march has received particular attention because of its timing, just before Blinken’s visit.

The caravan, about 1,600 miles south of the U.S. border in the state of Chiapas, includes migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela and Haiti, among other countries.

In November, a smaller caravan dispersed after the officials took hundreds of migrants to local shelters.

Republicans have stepped up their attacks on Biden over the border numbers, a potential vulnerability for the president as he seeks reelection next year. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law authorizing his state’s law enforcement agencies to arrest migrants who cross the border without authorization. (El Paso County challenged the measure in federal court last week.) The president has also faced pressure from Democratic city mayors over the increase in migrants arriving in their cities.

Immigration has also become central to discussions in Congress over aid to Ukraine and Israel. Republicans refused to approve wartime aid without a new crackdown at the border.

The increase in border crossings in recent weeks has forced border officials to do so temporary closure of railway crossings in El Paso and Eagle Pass, Texas, and closing the port of entry in Lukeville, Arizona. While level crossings have reopened, Biden administration officials plan to talk with Mexican officials about closing ports of entry, officials said in a statement.

Last week, López Obrador briefed reporters on a phone call with Biden in which they agreed that more controls are needed at the border.

“We now find ourselves in an extraordinary situation because the number of migrants crossing our country with the purpose of reaching the United States has increased,” he said, adding that Mexico “will help us, as we always do.”

López Obrador said he shares with Biden the goal of strengthening containment measures in southern Mexico so that migrants and asylum seekers do not reach the border.

The other necessary component, he said, is to try to address the root causes of migration and help resolve political disputes in the region.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Friday that there were more than 190,000 apprehensions between ports of entry in November. US officials said they had “removed or repatriated” more than 400,000 people between May and the end of November.

“We face a serious challenge along the Southwest border, and CBP and our federal partners need increased resources from Congress – as outlined in the supplemental budget request – to enhance border security and America’s national security,” said Troy Miller, the acting leader of the border agency, in a statement Friday.