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As Biden Pushes Trump-Like Border Policies, Blinken Meets with AMLO, Who Has Criticized U.S. Sanctions

StoryDecember 28, 2023
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As many as 10,000 people a day are being arrested in the U.S.-Mexico border as the Biden administration adapts the GOP’s xenophobic anti-immigrant framework ahead of the 2024 election, says Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based think tank MIRA: Feminisms and Democracies. She joins us as the U.S. secretary of state and homeland security secretary met Wednesday with the Mexican president. The U.S. and its policies south of the border, including sanctions and an exported drug war, are “actually causing the migration that they then try to contain — through these measures that are whipping up racism and also feeding into Republican campaigns,” says Carlsen.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Wednesday with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City, along with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to address the record number of people being arrested at the southern U.S. border — as many as 10,000 a day. Officials announced a new joint working group but shared few specifics. AMLO has blamed U.S. sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela for the rise in migration. Biden eased sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas industries in October.

AMY GOODMAN: As high-level talks took place, the Associated Press reports Mexico ordered workers in Matamoros to use bulldozers and machetes to clear a border encampment that included families with children, who say they were given little notice before their tents were destroyed. Meanwhile, a caravan of some 6,000 migrants from Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti left southern Mexico on Monday.

For more, we go to Mexico City, where we’re joined by Laura Carlsen with the Mexico City-based think tank MIRA: Feminisms and Democracies.

First of all, it’s interesting, Laura, that we have really so little information about what came out of the talks yesterday between the Mexican president and the secretary of state and secretary of homeland security. We understand that they were going to be asking for visas to be withdrawn from people heading north to the border, railways being more regulated bringing people up from southern Mexico. Talk all about what you understand at this point, and why you think we know so little after the meeting.

LAURA CARLSEN: It is somewhat surprising that so little specific information has come out, because, in fact, they promised that a joint declaration would be made after the meeting. We still haven’t seen that.

The meeting really represents the way in which the Biden administration has adopted the Republican framework of immigration as a threat to national security, of migrants as a threat, of border chaos in this preelectoral period. And that’s the tragic meaning of this meeting. It’s a delicate — it’s a delicate issue for both countries, because, on the one hand, the Democrats are losing any distinction between their own positions, the Biden position, and the Republican position. We know that reports are out, the negotiations for the funding for Ukraine and Israeli wars is being premised on accepting Republican demands for reducing humanitarian visas in the United States, increasing deportations and also denying asylum and due process, in many ways, for a greater number of people who are requesting asylum in the United States.

All these measures require cooperation from Mexico. Mexico would have to receive the people who are being rejected. And as a sovereign nation, it has no particular obligation to receive people being thrown out of another country. It would have to facilitate deportation flights. So, for President López Obrador, it’s a delicate matter, because there’s issues of national sovereignty. He doesn’t want it to look like Mexico is also caving to a Republican model of stopping immigration without looking at the root causes, without looking at the human rights issues that are at the root of so much of this immigration, forced immigration, and at the root of the violations that are taking place on the border.

So, he doesn’t want to come out and say that “We’ve agreed to new contention measures.” The U.S. government doesn’t really want to do that, either. So they’re coming out saying there’s going to be this regional working group. And this includes Guatemala. It includes South American countries.

The fact that there was a dialogue is a plus for Mexico, because in other cases, and oftentimes, it has to simply accept unilateral measures from the United States. And in many ways, it still does. The border closures that happened right before this meeting were a bully move on the part of the United States that has a tremendous impact on trade, not just in Mexico but also in the U.S., and that reminds the Mexican government of its dependency on the U.S. economy.

So, now President López Obrador is requesting an in-person meeting with Joe Biden. And that indicates that they did not concede everything that this delegation from the United States wanted and that they are going to push on some of what Mexico wants to get, if it is forced — and it will be — to do the dirty work of the United States under this contention model.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Laura, could you talk about some of the root causes that you referred to, and the fact that Mexico’s president has said that the sanctions, U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba, are in part responsible for the increased number of migrants attempting to come to the U.S.? So, if you could explain what are — what do you see as the root causes, and what accounts for the increase in the number of migrants attempting to come to the U.S.?

LAURA CARLSEN: It’s so important that Mexico has placed the issue of sanctions on the table in this whole immigration debate, especially now as Republicans are turning it into this xenophobic and really racist rhetoric that we’re hearing and that we will continue to hear up to the elections.

What we know is that for the first time ever, the last month, the Venezuelans surpassed Mexicans in apprehensions at the border. And there’s no doubt whatsoever — and there are very deep economic studies that show this — that the reason is because of these blanket economic sanctions on Venezuela. They’re punishing people who can no longer feed their families. There’s a huge spike in child malnutrition. And no parents are going to sit by and watch their children starve. And so people are forced to migrate. This is the classic case of forced migration, and it’s a direct result of U.S. policy.

The same is true of this spike that we’re seeing — and we can see it here in Mexico by just looking at the composition of these caravans and the flows of migrants coming through from Cuba. The sanctions since the Trump administration, that really did not undergo major changes during the Biden administration, are causing increased human suffering, and that increased human suffering is leading to increased immigration.

So you see U.S. policies at loggerheads, where they are actually causing the migration that they then try to contain through these measures that are whipping up racism and that are also feeding into Republican campaigns. The other reason is they’re also oftentimes related to longtime U.S. policies. They include the violence in Central American countries, here in Mexico, that’s a direct result of this drug war model, the kingpin strategy of fighting violence with violence through militarized forces in these countries, and maintaining prohibition in the United States. They also include neoliberal policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Laura Carlsen, I want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to ask you to stay, and we’re going to do a post-show interview with you in Spanish and post it online at democracynow.org. Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based think tank MIRA: Feminisms and Democracies.

That does it for today’s show. On Monday, New Year’s Day, we’ll bring you a special on Julian Assange, the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder. The High Court of Justice in London will hear what may be Assange’s final appeal in February. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks for joining us.

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