Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Saturday that in a virtual meeting Monday with President Joe Biden he will emphasize how important migrant labor is to the US economy.
Speaking at a public event in the northern state of Zacatecas, Lopez Obrador said migration would be a central topic of the leaders’ conversation.
The United States “is going to need Mexican and Central American workers in order to grow, to produce,” he said he would tell Biden.
The Mexican president estimated that the US economy would need 600,000 to 800,000 migrant workers a year, underscoring the importance of “reaching a good agreement” on migration.
He noted that during World War II, the US and Mexico reached their so-called Bracero agreement, under which Mexican farmworkers traveled legally to the US to fill jobs left vacant by Americans sent abroad to fight.
The situation is similar today, Lopez Obrador added, saying, “Without Mexican labor, how can the United States be sure of increased production?”
Migration, always a thorny issue between the neighboring countries, rose to the forefront during the administration of Donald Trump, a fierce critic of illegal — and often of legal — migration.
Faced with Trump’s threats of tariffs, Lopez Obrador had agreed to keep migrants in Mexico while their US asylum requests are processed.
US civil society groups estimate that some 70,000 undocumented migrants were deported to Mexico between January 2019 and December 2020. Roughly 6,000 remain in the country, according to the Mexican government.
With Biden’s arrival in the White House, the US canceled that controversial program and, since February 19, has allowed small groups into the country to pursue their asylum requests.
Biden and Lopez Obrador last spoke by phone on January 23, primarily about migration and the Covid-19 pandemic.