MCALLEN, Texas — Frustrated U.S. lawmakers will arrive in Mexico City on Sunday to echo the Biden administration’s concerns and demands on immigration enforcement that White House and Cabinet officials expressed to their Mexican counterparts.
With a renewed sense of urgency following a two-day tour of the Rio Grande Valley region of the border, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) and three other Texas representatives said they will visit Mexico City to impress upon President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and others the need to deter and turn away illegal immigrants headed north.
“Tomorrow, we will be flying down to Mexico City to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and to meet with the presidential candidates to talk about how we can change this policy and return to policy where we can stop the flow, where we can turn off the magnet and stop the pull factor that brings in so many here illegally,” McCaul said during remarks following the McAllen visit Saturday.
The lawmakers’ arrival in Mexico will come two days after Mexican officials traveled to Washington and met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House Homeland Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall for the second time in a month about border control measures.
The representatives are motivated to lay out America’s needs clearly as Lopez Obrador and the other candidates establish and publicize their policy platforms ahead of Mexico’s presidential election in June.
“Eight million encounters,” McCaul said in reference to the number of immigrants intercepted at the border since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. “How in the world are we going to deal with this? Three hundred on the terror watch list.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), who represents the Laredo, Texas, border, said it was important to hear from federal law enforcement before heading further south and considering the impact of potential policy changes on border communities.
The group of lawmakers who visited the border also included Reps. Monica de la Cruz (R-TX) and Randy Weber (R-TX). Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) did not attend the border visit but will meet the group in Mexico. De la Cruz will not continue with the rest from Texas.
The White House praised Mexico for taking “swift action against migrants” in the days since Biden administration officials met with their counterparts in Mexico City on Dec. 27, 2023.
“Our trip to Mexico last month came at a critical moment to continue building on our cooperation and the significant efforts of our Mexican partners,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson wrote in an email. “We are already starting to see the results and DHS has reopened multiple ports of entry along the border recently, in large part, thanks to Mexico’s augmented enforcement efforts.
“Specifically, our Mexican partners have taken swift action against migrants bordering rail and buses, and last week took steps to initiate repatriation flights to Venezuela as part of our regional migration strategy under the Los Angeles Declaration,” the NSC official said.
Mexico’s very public takedowns of an immigrant caravan, border camp, and deterrence of immigrants riding atop northbound freight trains have made headlines since the bilateral talks, but some immigration analysts have suggested the actions were done specifically to garner attention while having the least impact on the crisis overall.
Lopez Obrador said the U.S. reached out for help days before Christmas. The Mexican president said what Biden described in a post on X as a U.S. request to reopen closed border crossings to trade and traffic was a private plea.
Following the latest bilateral meeting on Friday, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller was less detailed about any specific agreements that both nations reached this time around.
“During the meeting, Secretary Blinken and the U.S. delegation noted that our coordinated efforts with Mexico are demonstrating positive results at our shared border,” Miller said in a statement. “They discussed the positive impact of efforts to increase migration controls on bus and train routes, crack down on criminal smuggling networks, and scale up repatriations for those who do not have a legal basis to remain in our countries.”
The congressional delegation is working simultaneously in Washington to move forward on a legislative solution to the border crisis.
Cuellar said Saturday that he supported House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) in his call to address the situation. House Republicans put forth a comprehensive border security package in 2023, but the Senate has yet to take it up for consideration and has not agreed to include the entire plan in a supplemental funding bill for Ukraine and Israel.
“I’m with Mike, I hope we can address it,” Cuellar said. “We do know that the speaker said that they were going to turn down the Senate deal, which I hope he doesn’t. If there’s a crisis, I think we need to get together. And I think this group here can get together to address this issue. I hope we can do this supplemental. I think we need to as Democrats or Republicans.”
Weber and de la Cruz said they believed the Senate ought to take up H.R. 2, House Republicans’ border bill.