“America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”
The quote from Henry Kissinger – one of the most famous heads of US diplomacy, for both good and bad reasons – could be applied to relations between the United States and Mexico, specifically to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s visit to colleague Joe Biden at the White House this week.
There is a big difference to that quote that only applies to the cases of Mexico and Canada. The United States does have permanent neighbors and it is in its national interest to always have strong and lasting relations with its North American neighbors. More so in the case of Mexico, because the two countries are linked like few others by strong family, social and economic roots.
The meeting between Presidents López Obrador and Biden took place weeks after one of the worst tragedies in the history of immigration relations between the two countries: the death of 53 undocumented migrants, most of them Mexicans, in the hell that became the box of a trailer in San Antonio, Texas.
With this tragic context, the proposal that López Obrador made to Biden makes sense to order the migratory flow and allow the arrival in the United States of Mexican and Central American workers, technicians and professionals, with temporary work visas to ensure that the economy is not paralyzed due to lack of labor. He also proposed granting immunity to migrants who have been working honestly for several years and contributing to the development of the United States.
It is undeniable that the absence of immigration reform is one of the great pending issues for the United States. Congress has not passed any significant legislation on the matter since 1986, despite the fact that the COVID pandemic confirmed the absolute need that the United States has for its essential workers, millions of whom are undocumented.
Although President Biden supports immigration reform, the Mexican proposal should prompt the White House to examine the scope of the power of the US executive to approve the extension of temporary visas required by the US economy. This is not, of course, a lasting or perfect solution, but it would alleviate problems of labor shortages, as well as unnecessary deaths at the border.
During their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, López Obrador told Biden that, despite the differences and even grievances between the two countries, the two governments must act in a good and transparent manner, “because there should be no selfishness between neighboring towns and friends.” Biden listened with interest to the proposals and asked him for “patience.”
Unfortunately, the situation justifies being impatient. It is necessary to act urgently and exhaust all possibilities to expand legal routes and paths to increase migration to the United States. Or else we will continue to see the fatal repetition of unnecessary deaths of human beings who only want honest work and a decent life.