There is good reason to declare satisfactory progress at the ninth summit of North American leaders that met last week in Washington between Presidents Joe Biden, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
It was the first meeting of the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada since 2016, and that meeting stalled for years for a reason that has a first and last name: Donald Trump. The then president of the United States not only interrupted meetings throughout his presidency, but imposed punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from two of his trading partners.
The new meeting revitalizes the notion that the three countries have more coincidences than differences and that, above many other things, they are united by the need to work cooperatively to improve competitiveness against other regions of the world, (especially Asia), add energy for projects and stay well-coordinated to face challenges, such as the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list of coincidences is long: the three countries agreed, for example, to do more to respond to the tragic drug overdose epidemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans over a 12-month period amid the pandemic. The United States and Mexico agreed to do more to confront the scourge of US arms trafficking to Mexican territory.
Particularly one of the results of the meeting sounds promising: Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard announced that the three countries agreed to launch a program that could be tentatively baptized as “Sowing Opportunities”, inspired by President López Obrador’s “Sowing Life” program.
Although we do not yet have the details of this program, it is evident that only by offering tangible alternatives and attacking the causes that produce migration to the United States, will it be possible to alleviate the problem. It is not a short-term solution, however, and the United States must do more to open legal routes that encourage or persuade people not to make the dangerous journey through Mexican territory.
But in the United States, political realities show dark clouds on the horizon in relation to public policies towards migrants. Republicans remain steadfast in their limited vision that conditions all immigration reform to absolute operational control of the border, which is an unattainable goal.
Just on Friday, precisely one day after the summit of North American leaders, the House of Representatives had to settle for approving a version of immigration reform that excludes the path of legal residence and citizenship. Instead or only offer work permits and protection against deportation for up to 10 years.
Furthermore, President Biden has not even managed to get his federal tax changes approved for the fiscal year of 2022, so any promise of substantive resources on immigration must first survive the no less dangerous legislative maze. At least The Three Amigos agree that sticking together is better than being separated. The challenge now is to turn goodwill into programs that will stand the test of leadership changes in the three countries.
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