Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will meet with Joe Biden today
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Mexico's president is here in Washington, D.C., today to meet with President Biden.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador rarely leaves Mexico, but the two leaders have a lot to talk about.
MARTIN: And we're going to talk about all that they have to talk about with NPR's Carrie Kahn, who is based in Mexico City. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Good morning. So lay it out for us. What are some of the issues that Lopez Obrador is bringing to the White House today?
KAHN: Top of the list, as is most of the time the U.S. and Mexican leaders meet, is migration. The number of migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border is at record highs. Even the number of Mexicans crossing the border regularly is hitting new records, according to U.S. data. Lopez Obrador has also been talking about getting more help on combating inflation, which is up around 8% in both countries. He says letting more migrant workers into the U.S. can help increase economic output and help tackle inflation. They'll also discuss cooperation in combating drug trafficking, too, as well as disputes U.S. energy companies have with the investment climate in Mexico. The White House also said Russia's war in Ukraine will be discussed. So a lot there.
MARTIN: OK. So as you noted, migration is up at record levels from 10 years ago. I mean, what are they going to accomplish in this one-day meet-and-greet?
KAHN: Mexico is hoping a lot gets done, especially in light of the tragedy in San Antonio, where 53 migrants, including 27 Mexicans, died in the back of a sweltering trailer. Mexico wants more visas for migrants to cross into the U.S. and work legally so that they can return back home. A U.S. senior administration official told reporters that work visas will be discussed but didn't give any specific numbers.
You know, Rachel, I was in this small town in Veracruz, Mexico, last week. Three cousins from there died in that overheated trailer. And through all the grief, there are so many relatives, neighbors - even the local priest kept telling me the same thing like this official, Carlos Enrique Escalante, I'm going to play for you. He's the head of migrant affairs for the Mexican state of Veracruz.
CARLOS ENRIQUE ESCALANTE: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: He says, "Look, let's be honest here. The U.S. needs workers, and there are jobs for migrants once they arrive." So he says, "Let's regulate all this so people don't have to die."
Lopez Obrador, the other day, said he wants 300,000 new visas, half for Mexican migrant workers and half for Central Americans.
MARTIN: So there are so many long-standing issues between the U.S. and Mexico. Relations are always, you know, tense to some degree. What's the situation, though, right now? I mean, why are things so particularly intense?
KAHN: Lopez Obrador always says he has a great relationship with Biden, but he's been taking a lot of jabs of late. The biggest was boycotting the recent Summit of the Americas in LA. He wanted Biden to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. He's also taking to defending Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who the U.S. is trying to extradite from the U.S. He said if that happens, he'll start a campaign to tear down the Statue of Liberty. He called U.S. support for Ukraine a crass error. He objects to U.S. criticism of his government, especially when it comes to his attacks on journalists and U.S. funding of civil society groups in Mexico. And he dismisses foreign investors' complaints about his energy policy that favors Mexican state companies first. So there's a lot of bumps in relations these days and a lot to discuss in such a short visit.
MARTIN: Indeed. NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City. Thanks, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome.
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