WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — President Joe Biden touched down in Mexico Monday, ahead of a meeting at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City with President Andres Manuel López Obrador, following his first trip to the border as president.
The two men are set to discuss the growing migration crisis and the deadly amount of fentanyl flowing across the border.
In the lead-up to the trip, Biden announced a major border policy shift, with Mexico’s blessing, that will result in the United States sending 30,000 migrants from four other countries per month back across the border.
The new policy expands a Trump-era policy which allowed border officials to expel migrants migrants seeking asylum at the border. Migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela will be affected. While undocumented migrants can be turned away at the border, the Biden administration also pledged to accept some 30,000 into the country each month through an online application process.
In Mexico, López Obrador’s security forces nabbed one of the sons of imprisoned former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, touching off violence that left 30 dead and dozens injured. The son, Ovidio Guzmán, is a reputed drug trafficker wanted by the United States.
The two presidents, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will gather in Mexico City on Monday and Tuesday for a North American leaders summit. Even with progress on the migration issue, there is much to discuss: climate change, manufacturing, trade, the economy and the potential global clout of a more collaborative North America.
Biden arrived at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City on Monday afternoon, and the presidents will meet before Trudeau joins them for dinner. Biden and Trudeau will hold talks Tuesday and then the three will gather for discussions.
Biden hopes to use the summit “to keep driving North America’s economic competitiveness and help promote inclusive growth and prosperity,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
For the U.S., the major talking points are migration, drug trafficking and building on Biden’s push on electric vehicles and manufacturing.
López Obrador is focused on economic integration for North America, supporting the poor in the Americas and regional relationships that put all governments on equal footing.
The U.S. and Mexico are expected to continue discussions about ending a dispute over U.S. corn after Mexico announced it would ban imports of genetically modified corn. In addition, Mexico is seeking money to boost solar energy projects.
As for Canada, the goal is simply “to carve some attention and space in this summit,” said Louise Blais, a longtime Canadian diplomat.
On Sunday, Biden spent four hours in El Paso, Texas, the longest he’s spent along the U.S-Mexico line. The day was highly controlled and seemed designed to showcase a smooth operation to process migrants entering legally, weed out smuggled contraband and humanely treat those who’ve entered illegally, creating a counter-narrative to Republicans’ claims of a crisis situation equivalent to an open border.
During the trip, Biden was seen walking along a metal border fence and meeting with border officials. But he didn’t appear to see or meet with any migrants. When he stopped at an El Paso County Migrant Services center, no migrants were in sight.
As Biden’s motorcade drove along the border, about a dozen migrants lined up on the Ciudad Juárez side in Mexico. His visit did not include time at a Border Patrol station, where migrants who cross illegally are arrested and held before their release.
Republicans quickly criticized Biden’s tour, with newly sworn-in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dismissing it as a photo op. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott handed Biden a letter as soon as he landed, blaming him for what Abbot called chaos at the border and failing to enforce federal laws.
Democratic lawmakers have also criticized Biden’s trip, calling the new policy a humanitarian disgrace. A bipartisan group of senators also met at the border to discuss possible long-term solutions to the crisis.
The number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has risen dramatically during Biden’s first two years in office. There were more than 2.38 million stops during the year that ended Sept. 30, the first time the number topped 2 million. The administration has struggled to clamp down on crossings, reluctant to take measures that would resemble those of former President Trump’s administration.
From Texas, Biden headed south to Mexico City. This is the first time since 2014 Mexico has hosted a U.S. president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report