EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Border leaders want their respective presidents to craft a binational strategy addressing the region’s pressing issues during their meeting tomorrow.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and President Trump are meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to celebrate the recent start of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The treaty that replaced the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) kicked in on July 1. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is skipping the meeting, citing previous commitments.
Mexican critics have zinged their president for giving Trump a chance to claim a political victory with the treaty, even as the U.S. president flaunts construction of a border wall to stop Mexican and others from coming across illegally. Lopez Obrador also has endured criticism for allowing the Trump administration to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico.
Sources close to the White House have said the two president will discuss immigration and the policing of Mexican drug cartels.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, sent a letter to Trump and to Lopez Obrador asking for more resources to fight COVID-19 and to standardize testing and tracing policies.
The letter highlights the two countries’ economic interdependence, the need for the safe movement of goods and people across the border, and the impact the pandemic has on families placed in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program that makes them wait in Mexico for asylum hearings in the United States.
“As we continue to see the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravage our two countries, our collaboration has never been more important,” Escobar said in her letter. “I urge you then to work toward a binational strategy to tackle COVID-19. With over 130,000 American and 30,000 Mexican lives lost to the virus, it is vital that you implement a robust border mitigation, testing, and contact tracing plan that protects our shared interests.”
She said people’s lives, jobs and the economic well-being of border communities is at risk.
Escobar stressed that the United States was slow to respond to the pandemic and that border states like Texas and Arizona that reopened their economy before implementing “robust testing and tracing policies” have become hotspots for the disease.
She added that Mexico hasn’t invested significantly in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, with tests generally being administered only to individuals admitted into hospitals. “Communities on both sides of the border, especially those that are key economic arteries, should have identical testing and tracing policies and resources as well as identical safety regulations and enforcement,” Escobar urged.
She went on to describe the “dangerous conditions” at migrant camps and said the United States and Mexico “have been complicit” in creating such conditions and have an obligation to end policies that place vulnerable migrants in potentially deadly situations.
Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral on Tuesday said it’s good that the two leaders celebrate the start of the new trade pact. However, he urged Lopez Obrador to take the opportunity to “draw a line” between his visit as a head of state and (U.S.) electoral politics.
“I think it’s also important for our President to outline an agenda of international dialogue, of international relations because that is the key to cooperation in the globalized world we live in,” he said.