Migration, climate change, trade and manufacturing issues headlined the first day of meetings between the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as the host, President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, forcefully urged greater continental integration.
"Dear President Biden, I am certain that you are a humanistic president, a visionary president," Lopez Obrador said as the two leaders sat down with high-level delegations for a bilateral meeting Monday night. "And that there are conditions that couldn't really be better to initiate a new policy of integration, of economic social integration, Mr. President, in our continent."
Biden and Lopez Obrador held the first of a series of meetings that will continue on Tuesday and will also include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, part of a regional summit between the three leaders.
The U.S. president and his wife, Jill Biden, were greeted Monday by Lopez Obrador and his wife, Beatriz Gutierrez, for a welcome ceremony at the National Palace.
And on Monday evening, Biden, Trudeau and Lopez Obrador had dinner along with their spouses.
On Monday, Lopez Obrador called for greater economic integration on the continent.
"This is the moment for us to determine to do away with this abandonment, this disdain," he said. "And this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is opposed to the policy of the good neighborhood, of the titans of freedom and liberty … starting with you, because there would be no other leader that could implement this enterprise."
The White House noted that the talks were nuanced and complex.
"These are sensitive conversations, they're best done behind closed doors, but the president certainly comes with that as a key part of his economic agenda here," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told journalists in Mexico City.
Amigo a amigo
Sullivan also said there is a personal element to this summit, which is often referred to as the "3 Amigos" summit.
"This trip is a good opportunity for President Biden to deepen his personal engagement with President Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister Trudeau," Sullivan told reporters in Mexico City on Monday. "Yesterday he had the opportunity to ride with President Lopez Obrador from the airport back into town, which gave them the chance to just have a one-on-one chat of how they're seeing the world right now, what's on their minds. I think they both got a lot out of it."
Sullivan declined to give details of the conversation, but the leaders' Sunday night ride from the new Felipe Angeles International Airport, through the darkened residential outskirts of the capital and into the heart of the city, lasted about an hour.
Biden arrived late Sunday in Mexico after visiting the Texas city of El Paso for a firsthand look at the influx of thousands of undocumented migrants crossing the border with Mexico.
Earlier, during a visit to the border city, Biden stopped at the Bridge of the Americas port of entry, where he met with Customs and Border Protection officers. He also walked a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border wall that separates the Texas city from Ciudad Juarez with two Customs and Border Protection agents.
Before leaving for Mexico City, he also visited the El Paso County Migrant Support Center where he met with local officials and community leaders.
Upon his arrival in Texas, Biden was met by Governor Greg Abbott, who handed Biden a letter. Abbott cited "chaos" in his state, saying the situation is the result of Biden failing to enforce federal immigration laws.
Biden tweeted after his visit that it is possible to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and make the immigration process "orderly, fair, safe and humane."
"My administration is using the tools available to limit illegal migration, expand legal pathways to immigration, and increase security," Biden said. "The approach we're taking is based on a model we know works. But to truly fix our broken immigration system, Congress needs to act."
Biden's visit came days after announcing that 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans per month would be allowed into the United States and be able to work legally for up to two years if they apply from abroad, pass a background check and prove they have a financial supporter in the U.S.
When asked if the U.S. government plans to accept more than 30,000 migrants under the new program, Sullivan said the government has established numerical targets, and they will "see how it goes" to then make determinations.
"By the end of this summit, we are not going to have a new agreement as a deliverable here," he said. "What we need is to see how the program, announced last week, works in practice, [and] what, if any, adjustments need to be made to that program, and then we can talk about taking the next step."
Biden officials said those who fail to apply for the program and cross into the U.S. without authorization will be removed to Mexico under a pandemic-era health order that allows for quick expulsion of migrants.
The order, known as Title 42, was put in place over concerns of the spread of the coronavirus as the reason to keep out the migrants trying to enter the U.S. at or in between ports of entry.
Migrants are also subjected to deportation to their home country after going through expedited removal if they enter the U.S. without authorization.
VOA immigration reporter Aline Barros in Washington contributed to this story. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press.