Mexico discussed 'root causes' of migration in meeting with Biden envoys

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador earlier on Tuesday reiterated his position that Washington should help spur development in Central America.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference at the National Palace, in Mexico City on February 23, 2021. REUTERS / Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY, March 23 (Reuters) - Mexican and senior U.S. officials discussed on Tuesday how to address "root causes" of Central American migration during meetings aimed at stemming increased illegal border crossings into the United States, Mexico's government said.

The administration of President Joe Biden sent envoys, including border coordinator Roberta Jacobson, to Mexico to discuss the jump in arrivals at the border. Initial talks began in Mexico on Tuesday and will continue in Guatemala.

"Humanitarian actions were highlighted to promote, in the short term, inclusive economic development in the north of Central America that mitigates the root causes behind migratory flows in the region," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The officials, including Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, also discussed different mechanisms for "orderly and safe" migration, and the protection of human rights, particularly those of children, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the White House on the outcome of the talks.


In contrast to the diplomatic language, Mexico this week launched a renewed migration enforcement operation headed by militarized police and soldiers in the south of the country to deter thousands of migrants every week fleeing a deep economic recession and storm destruction in Honduras and Guatemala.

The Mexican government's own human ombudsman demanded the rights of migrants be respected in the new operation, in which soldiers and police will employ drones and night vision goggles to catch migrants.

In the United States, officials are struggling to house and process an increasing number of unaccompanied children, many of whom have been stuck in jail-like border stations for days while they await placement in overwhelmed government-run shelters.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador earlier on Tuesday reiterated his position that Washington should help spur development in Central America.

"People don't go to the United States for fun, they go out of necessity," Lopez Obrador said. "There needs to be support for the development of Central America and the south of Mexico. Particularly Central America."

For years, the bulk of people seeking to cross illegally into the United States have come from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and the poorer regions of southern Mexico.

The White House on Monday said the United States would work together with Mexico and Central American governments to mitigate the causes of migration, and to emphasize to their populations that now is not the time to go north.

Jacobson is being joined by Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council's senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Ricardo Zuniga, named this week as a special envoy focusing on Central America.


Zuniga becomes the first U.S. special envoy for the region since the Cold War-era conflicts of the 1980s.

Biden, a Democrat, has vowed to adopt a more humanitarian policy towards migrants than his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, as well as to open up a pathway to citizenship for many living in the United States.

Mexico says the change in policy has encouraged people to think that it is now easier to enter the United States.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Grant McCool)

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