WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

11 Jul 2022 | Commentary

3 Migration Priorities for the Biden-AMLO Meeting

On Tuesday, July 12, presidents Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador will meet in Washington DC. A central topic of the meeting will be migration, an urgent priority in a context of historic levels of regional displacement and arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers in Mexico and the United States.

The meeting comes two weeks after the tragedy in San Antonio, Texas, where 53 migrants died attempting to enter the United States in a tractor-trailer. The devastating and avoidable San Antonio case shows the need to move past immigration policies focused on closing borders and blocking migrants’ paths: such strategies simply force people to take dangerous routes and hire smugglers instead of being able to migrate legally.

Ahead of the bilateral meeting, 87 U.S., Mexican, regional, and international civil society organizations sent an open letter to the two presidents outlining key points for an effective and sustainable response to high levels of migration in the region, with a focus on human rights and the protection of migrants and asylum seekers. Key priorities highlighted in the letter include:

  • Restore the right to seek asylum at the border. Both governments should take all necessary steps to reduce and end Title 42 removals and to protect the affected population. There have been 10,318 reported attacks on people blocked at the border or expelled to Mexico under Title 42 since Biden took office, and the United States has sent hundreds of removal flights to other countries without giving expelled people the opportunity to request asylum.
  • Facilitate access to legal migration pathways in both countries. López Obrador has announced that he will use the meeting to advocate for greater access for migrants to employment opportunities in the United States. Mexico’s Minister of the Interior even stated in June that he expects the bilateral meeting to include the announcement of up to 300,000 temporary U.S. work visas, including some 150,000 for migrants coming from Mexico. Expanding access to work visas is important and should include measures to protect workers’ rights and prevent labor exploitation. In addition, it is necessary to facilitate different legal avenues for migration in both countries, including for the tens of thousands of people arriving at Mexico’s southern border.
  • End violence and other abuses against migrants. In Mexico, migrants suffer kidnappings by criminal groups, and they also face arbitrary detention, extortion, and other forms of violence at the hands of state agents. The deployment of the armed forces in migration control has aggravated the risk for the migrant population. In the United States, hundreds of abuses by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been reported. It is essential that both governments ensure that their institutions do not tolerate such acts and that complaints are investigated and lead to accountability for perpetrators.

Policies based on closing migration pathways and expelling arriving people do not solve forced migration; they only increase the suffering and danger that migrants face on their journey. WOLA and partner organizations urgently call on both presidents to advance toward the goals outlined in the recent Summit of the Americas’ Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection by implementing migration policies that respect human rights. Civil society organizations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, who work with the migrant and refugee population day to day, should be included in the design of regional migration strategies and stand ready to engage with both governments on these issues.

Read the letter sent by the organizations here.