We are well into the dog days of summer and it is hard to believe that August is only a few days away. Enough is happening in US-Mexico relations, however, to set the tone for the balance sheet for the year and probably through 2022.
The delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around the world, leading to new outbreaks and raising questions about when countries can get out of the pandemic completely.
Mexico is experiencing a third wave of cases and increased hospital admissions. Most new infections were in Mexicans between the ages of 18 and 39 who were not yet eligible for the vaccine. Only 19 percent of people in Mexico are fully vaccinated and 33 percent have had a vaccination. The recent surge in cases is alarming for a country that has already lost at least 238,000 lives to COVID-19. The Ministry of Health estimates the real death toll is 60 percent higher.
The delta variant and the increase in cases appear to have made reopening the US-Mexico land border difficult for non-essential travel. On July 21, the government of Biden renewed the border restrictions, which have been extended monthly since March 2020. These restrictions face mounting opposition from politicians and business leaders in cities like San Diego and Laredo.
In terms of immigration, June set the record for monthly border crossings in recent history with 188,829 encounters. However, over a third of the people were counted double or triple under Title 42, a public health ordinance that gives the Department of Homeland Security the power to expel people immediately to Mexico and their countries of origin. According to Customs and Border Protection, the number of unique encounters was 123,828.
The Biden government continues to send the message to migrants that they should not come to the US. She is reportedly considering maintaining Title 42 restrictions on the border. Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas warned that migrants arriving by sea are not allowed to enter the United States.
A federal judge in Texas recently blocked new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which left tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children in abeyance. That ruling comes as Democrats consider whether to use the budget reconciliation process – which would only require a simple majority – to pass immigration reform.
On foreign policy, the recent positions of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador contradict those of the United States. The Mexican foreign minister expressed his support for the Cuban government amid violent protests and an interest in re-establishing diplomatic and commercial ties with North Korea. This presents another hurdle for the Biden government, which has been working to broaden the bilateral agenda.
More positively, but still more challenging, US, Mexican and Canadian trade ministers met in Mexico City on July 7th to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the USMCA trade agreement. In the coming year, USMCA could drive North America’s economic recovery. Yet challenges remain. The three countries must continue to settle trade disputes, adjust regional supply chains and agree on rules of origin for cars.
Another challenge is López Obrador’s energy policy. Recently, his government placed a major oil discovery contract with the state-owned PEMEX in lieu of a private consortium led by the US company that discovered it first. Last week, a bipartisan group of US Congressmen and Senators called on Bidento to involve the Mexican president more directly on the energy issue and López Obrador’s efforts to stifle private investment in the sector.
At White & Case Mexico City, we follow the latest developments to provide our clients with the best legal advice to do business in Mexico, and our office was recently recognized for its market-leading domestic and international dispute resolution capacity in Mexico and connection via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn .
I wish you a safe, healthy, and enjoyable rest of the summer and I’ll get back to your inbox this fall with the latest US-Mexico affairs news.
Editor’s note: The above guest column was written by former US Ambassador to Mexico, Antonio Garza. The column is published with the permission of the author on the International Intelligence Service of the Rio Grande Guardian. Garza can be reached by email at: [email protected].
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