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U.S. officials met with Mexico's president to press for limits on migrant surges

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

Roughly 2.5 million migrants showed up at the U.S. border this year. That was a historic number, and it's created a humanitarian crisis for the crowds of people hoping for refuge and opportunity in the United States. It's also posing political dilemmas for the Biden administration. Yesterday, senior White House officials traveled to meet with the president of Mexico to discuss immigration and the border. NPR's Jasmine Garsd is in Mexico City to cover those discussions and she joins us now. Jasmine, it's good to have you with us.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Good morning.

KHALID: So, Jasmine, what did U.S. officials hope to achieve with this visit?

GARSD: Well, we know the U.S. is seeking certain commitments, like Mexico further securing its own southern border with Guatemala, like making migrant transit up north to the U.S. more difficult. This meeting was held between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But just to show how much of a priority this is for the Biden administration, the White House also sent other key players in U.S. border policy, like Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Homeland Security Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.

KHALID: And how did the Mexican president respond to these conversations, to these discussions?

GARSD: President Lopez Obrador has said he's willing to work with the U.S. But yesterday, he reiterated his belief that deterrence alone at the border will not work. He wants the U.S. to address the root causes of immigration, like poverty and politics. He's been calling for the U.S. to ease sanctions on Cuba and on Venezuela, Venezuela being one of the countries where many of the migrants are coming from. Now, whether or not that would happen in an election year seems unlikely.

KHALID: Yeah. And elections, Jasmine - you know, my day job is covering the White House, and I imagine that there are a lot of political pressures at play, there's a sense of urgency right now.

GARSD: Absolutely. Look, Biden spoke to the Mexican president just last week on this issue. There is a sense of pressure on many fronts. Republicans in Congress are demanding stricter immigration policies in exchange for aid to Ukraine and Israel. At the border and in cities throughout the U.S., many migrants are facing horrific conditions, which has led to intense criticism of Biden's immigration policies from both Republicans and Democrats. In an election year, that's a harsh political reality.

KHALID: Yeah. And can we expect, then, any change in policy you think anytime soon?

GARSD: Yeah, I think so, even as soon as next month. Congress is back in session and Republicans will continue asking for things like making it even more difficult to get asylum at the border and more deportations. I've spoken to advocates who worry that the U.S. could return to Trump-era policies, when asylum-seekers were turned away without a hearing. And when it comes to involving Mexico, advocates have real concerns about human rights violations. I mean, for years we've been hearing reports of migrants being abused, kidnapped and killed while trying to get through Mexico and seek asylum in the U.S. Now, the White House has said and repeated this week that it remains committed to protecting the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.

KHALID: All right. Well, we'll be keeping an eye on that. Jasmine Garsd is NPR's immigration correspondent. Thanks so much for joining us.

GARSD: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.