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U.S. and Mexican officials to discuss migrant surge at the border


A group of senior officials in the Biden administration are traveling to Mexico today to talk immigration enforcement. There's been an unprecedented surge in migrants at the border. Federal agents encountered roughly 2.5 million migrants there this year.

NPR immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd joins us now to discuss. So you are traveling on this trip today. What do you expect will be discussed in the meetings?

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: So Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and White House Homeland Security Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall are scheduled to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. And they'll be arriving around the same time as a caravan of thousands of migrants treks through Mexico, heading towards the U.S. border. Now, President Biden already spoke to President Lopez Obrador last week about curbing immigration, and the Mexican president said they are in talks for Mexico to secure its own southern border with Guatemala, as well as to make it more difficult for migrants to move up Mexico. My understanding is that today's trip will be to flesh out the details of that enforcement. And there is a sense of urgency. Right now, there are ongoing negotiations in Congress involving immigration enforcement.

KHALID: Right. Jasmine, those talks in Congress have been going on for some time, but they're certainly ramping up, this question of border security. Tell us a little bit more about that, about what's at stake.

GARSD: Well, of course, we're heading into an election year. And a centerpiece of Republican presidential campaigns has been Biden's immigration policies, which they are calling disastrous. Add to that, recently, President Biden requested wartime aid for Ukraine and Israel. In response, House Republicans demanded that there be a drastic change in immigration policy to make applying for and receiving asylum at the border far more difficult, as well as expanded deportations.

KHALID: So what has the response been from Mexico to all of these suggestions?

GARSD: So this month, the Mexican government halted a program to repatriate and transfer migrants inside Mexico due to lack of funds. President Lopez Obrador has said he's willing to work with the U.S. The Mexican president has also made it clear he wants the Biden administration to ease sanctions on the governments of Cuba and Venezuela. A significant percentage of migrants are from Venezuela. And he wants more aid to Latin America.

KHALID: Jasmine, I want to zoom out away from the politics of this specific moment. You have spent a lot of time at the U.S.-Mexico border covering migrants, covering humanitarian concerns. What are you hearing ahead of these potential policy changes?

GARSD: I have. And what is unfolding at the border is a humanitarian crisis like I haven't seen in my years of reporting. What I've heard is a lot of fear from advocates that it could be a return to Trump-era policies where there was no access to asylum in the U.S. and that delegating immigration enforcement to Mexico has led to serious human rights abuses. Ahead of this meeting, the U.S. Department of State has said it will reaffirm the U.S.'s commitment for the protection of asylum-seekers and, quote, "underscore the urgent need for lawful pathways."

KHALID: NPR's Jasmine Garsd, thanks for taking the time to talk to us ahead of your busy day of reporting and travel.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.