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Biden, Mexico President to Meet        03/01 06:10

   President Joe Biden is planning a virtual meeting Monday with Mexican 
President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador -- a chance for the pair to talk more 
fully about migration, confronting the coronavirus and cooperating on economic 
and national security issues.

   WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- President Joe Biden is planning a virtual meeting 
Monday with Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador --- a chance for the 
pair to talk more fully about migration, confronting the coronavirus and 
cooperating on economic and national security issues.

   Mexico's president has said he intends during the meeting to propose to 
Biden a new Bracero-style immigrant labor program that could bring 600,000 to 
800,000 Mexican and Central American immigrants a year to work legally in the 
United States.

   A senior Biden administration official declined to say whether the U.S. 
president would back or oppose the proposal, saying only that both countries 
agree on the need to expand legal pathways for migration. The official insisted 
on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

   The original Bracero program allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the 
United States to fill labor shortages during World War II and for a couple of 
decades after the war. Lpez Obrador said the U.S. economy needs Mexican 
workers because of "their strength, their youth."

   The Biden official said the meeting will enable Biden begin to 
institutionalize the relationship with Mexico, rather than let it be determined 
by tweets --- a preferred form of diplomacy by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

   The United States shares a trade agreement --- most recently updated in 2018 
and 2019 --- with Mexico and Canada, which are its second- and third-biggest 
trade partners after China. The trade agreement could complicate Lpez 
Obrador's efforts to possibly defund and eliminate independent regulatory, 
watchdog and transparency agencies in Mexico.

   There are also questions of whether Lpez Obrador will warm to Biden's 
efforts to address climate change and move to cleaner energy sources. The 
Mexican president supports a measure to make that country's national grids 
prioritize power from government plants, many of which burn coal or fuel oil.

   The Trump era was defined by the threat of tariffs, crackdowns on migration 
and his desire to construct a wall on the U.S. southern border, yet Trump 
appeared to enjoy an amicable relationship with his Mexican counterpart.

   Mexico paid nothing for Trump's cherished border wall, despite the U.S. 
leader's repeated claims that it would. But Lpez Obrador's government did send 
troops to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala to deal with an unprecedented 
wave of asylum-seekers bound for the U.S. Mexico hosted about 70,000 people 
seeking U.S. asylum while they waited for dates in immigration courts, a policy 
known as Remain in Mexico and officially as Migrant Protection Protocols.

   The Biden administration immediately began to unwind Remain in Mexico, 
suspending it for new arrivals on the president's first day in office and soon 
after announcing that an estimated 26,000 people with still-active cases could 
be released in the United States while their cases played out.

   But Biden, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has 
kept extraordinary pandemic-related powers in place to immediately expel anyone 
arriving at the U.S. border from Mexico without an opportunity to seek asylum.

   Mexicans and many Central Americans are typically returned to Mexico in less 
than two hours under Title 42 authority --- so named for a section of a 1944 
public health law. Biden aides have signaled they have no immediate plans to 
lift it.

   Yet Biden has also shown an openness to immigrants who previously came to 
the country illegally. He is backing a bill to give legal status and a path to 
citizenship to all of the estimated 11 million people in the country who don't 
have it. Biden also broke with Trump by supporting efforts to allow hundreds of 
thousands of people who came to the U.S. illegally as young children to remain 
in the country.

   Lpez Obrador said Saturday that an aging United States will also need 
temporary immigrant workers from Mexico to sustain economic growth.

   "It is better that we start putting order on migratory flows," he said he 
plans to tell Biden.

   But pressures are building at the U.S. southern border with an increase in 
children crossing into the country without visas. This has created a challenge 
for the Biden administration. Border Patrol agents are apprehending an average 
of more than 200 children crossing the border without a parent per day, but 
nearly all 7,100 beds for immigrant children maintained by the Department of 
Health and Human Services are full.

   The Biden administration has also preserved a policy, imposed at the start 
of the COVID-19 outbreak, of quickly expelling people captured along the border 
and has tried to dissuade people from attempting the journey.

   "This is not the time to come to the United States," White House press 
secretary Jen Psaki said at a February briefing. "We need the time to put in 
place an immigration process so people can be treated humanely."

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