By Jarrett Renshaw and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden held “constructive” talks with his Mexican counterpart, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, on Friday, the White House said, as officials on both sides of the shared border grow concerned the expiration of immigration restrictions.
The meeting followed just days after a federal judge ordered the US Department of Homeland Security to suspend efforts to end a public health order known as Title 42, a policy related to COVID-19. which allows the deportation of migrants to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mexican officials fear that repealing the Trump-era measure to tighten the U.S. border could encourage more migration and more profiteering for criminal gangs unless Washington does more to help ease the crisis. ‘impact.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said “the majority of the conversation was about migration and continuing the coordination work,” to reduce the expected flow of immigrants when this health order is lifted.
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“The tone of the call was very constructive,” she told reporters. “This was not a call where President Biden threatened the Mexican President in any way. They were an important partner.”
In a tweet, Lopez Obrador called the call “cordial” and said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would visit Washington on Monday.
Friday’s meeting also came as Mexico criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but is reluctant to join the United States and its European allies in issuing sanctions against Russia.
“Obviously we hope they will join us in imposing a cost on the Kremlin for what it is doing…by working with us to enforce the sanctions put in place by the United States and our partners,” a senior Biden administration official said Friday. .
The official said the United States and Mexico would “inevitably have different approaches” but added that they had a “shared view” that the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin was unjustified.
Lopez Obrador said earlier this month that Mexico does not accept the Russian invasion of Ukraine and “we are in favor of a peaceful solution to the conflict”.
While its government backed a United Nations vote urging Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Mexico abstained in a General Assembly vote on Russia’s suspension from the rights body of the UN man.
The bilateral talks also aimed to prepare for the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which the United States will host in Los Angeles in June to bring together leaders from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The two countries made progress in security cooperation in October with the announcement of the bicentenary framework for security, public health and community safety, but they still face obstacles on issues ranging from immigration to energy.
The Biden administration had planned to end the Title 42 ordinance on May 23, and Republicans used the repeal to attack Democrats over immigration ahead of the midterm elections.
Biden, a Democrat, has struggled to implement what he describes as a more humane and orderly system at the US-Mexico border amid record numbers of migrants arrested while crossing illegally, rulings unfavorable justice and political opposition from Republicans and some of his own party. .
US border officials arrested 210,000 migrants attempting to cross the border into Mexico in March, the highest monthly total in two decades.
The March total is a 24% increase from the same month a year earlier, when 169,000 migrants were picked up at the border, the start of a surge in migration that left thousands of children unaccompanied stuck in crowded border patrol posts for days awaiting placement. in overwhelmed government-run shelters.
(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Diego Ore; Editing by Heather Timmons, Alistair Bell and Aurora Ellis)
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