- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2021

The new administration is acknowledging an ongoing border “crisis” as President Biden prepares to hold a virtual meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Briefing reporters ahead of the confab, a senior administration official said Mr. Biden will ask what more Mexico might do to stop the new surge of illegal immigrants, even as the president looks to show he has a plan to improve treatment of those who do reach the U.S.

Mr. Lopez Obrador said over the weekend that he will propose a “Bracero”-style immigration program to Mr. Biden in the video chat, calling for hundreds of thousands of Mexican and Central American migrants to be admitted each year to the U.S. to work.

The original Bracero program was instituted during World War II and lasted two decades, bringing in millions of migrant laborers who worked low-skilled jobs, with controls to try to make sure they went home when their time was up. The program became controversial over treatment of the workers and over claims they were undercutting American workers.

The senior U.S. official briefing reporters said he had seen those reports, but that’s not the administration’s immediate interest.

“For now, we are focused on managing a crisis at the border,” the official said.

Last week White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to call the border situation a “crisis.”

“I don’t think I’m going to put new labels on it from here or from the podium,” she said, though she said the situation was “a priority of the administration.”

Mr. Biden’s early moves on immigration have sparked a new migrant surge, with large groups of illegal immigrant families making their way up through Central America and Mexico to the border.

Though top officials say the border is closed to them, hundreds are being admitted each day.

That’s due in part to weakening cooperation from Mexico, which under the last administration cooperated on taking back people the U.S. expelled under coronavirus orders, or pushed back across the border under the Migrant Protection Protocols.

The U.S official said Mexico in some regions of the border now refuses to take back families from other countries who show up at the U.S. border with children under age 6. That’s a large portion of the migrants now arriving at the border, the U.S. official said.

He said Mr. Biden is deeply immersed in the issues, “down to a tactical level,” and is getting updates on the border situation “in real time.”

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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