Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador cautioned during an interview on “60 Minutes” that unless the United States fulfills Latin America’s requests for aid, the mass flow of migrants will continue. 

In January, Obrador laid out a set of demands for the U.S. to address in order to stop the surge of migrants arriving at the border. His demands included providing $20 billion in annual aid to Latin American nations and granting some level of amnesty for illegal immigrant workers in the U.S.

Number Of Migrants Expected To Rise This Spring

Mexico has apparently made efforts at the state level to reduce mass migration, as requested by President Biden, leading to a drop in crossings. However, in February, the number of migrants started to increase again, and Border Patrol expects another surge in spring.

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“Everybody thinks you have the power at this moment to slow down migration. Do you plan to?” “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsisaid asked Obrador.

Root Causes Should Be Attended To

“We do and want to continue doing it. But we do want for the root causes to be attended to, for them to be seriously looked at,” a translator interpreted Obrador’s response from Spanish.

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Alfonsi pointed out that Obrador wants the U.S. to give $20 billion annually to Latin American nations, remove sanctions on Venezuela, stop the Cuban embargo, and legalize millions of Mexicans living in the U.S.

Fix The Root Causes Or Face Migrant Surge

His message on the immigration crisis was straightforward: if the U.S. doesn’t tackle the root causes, the surge of migrants at the border will continue.

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“If they don’t do the things that you’ve said need to be done, then what?” she asked. “The flow of migrants will continue,” Obrador responded.

Critics Label López Requests As ‘Diplomatic Blackmail’

Meanwhile, critics of López Obrador  have called his actions and his requests to help secure the border “diplomatic blackmail.”

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Obrador minced no words with his response. “I’m speaking frankly,” Obrador said. “We have to say things as they are. And I always say what I feel, I always say what I think.”

Obrador Affirms Continued Border Support Based On Relationship

The interviewer went on to ask, “If they don’t do those things, will you continue to help to secure the border?” “Yes, because our relationship is very important,” Obrador replied. “It is fundamental.”

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Earlier in the episode, Alfonsi mentioned that immigration, the border, and the economy are important topics in the 2024 election, and “the person who could tip the scales for either candidate is another president [Obrador].”

Calling Trump’s Bluff On Border Claims

Mexico’s president, López Obrador is known for speaking his mind at his press conferences every weekday. He said during the interview that when former President Donald Trump talks about closing the border or building a wall, he’s just bluffing.

Source: US Customs and Border Protection

Despite their differences and border tensions, López Obrador developed a working relationship and a personal connection with the former president.

Trump Needs Mexico

In 2020, Mr. Trump welcomed López Obrador to the White House to celebrate the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Before signing the agreement in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump mentioned that “the relationship between the United States and Mexico has never been closer.” 

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López Obrador believes Trump won’t completely close the border “because he needs Mexico,” the 70-year-old president explained. 

Closing Border Could Lead To Price Hikes

“We signed an economic, commercial agreement that has been favorable for both peoples, for both nations. He knows it,” López Obrador said. “And President Biden is the same.”

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Last year, Mexico became America’s top trading partner. He pointed to cars, noting that prices would spike by as much as $15,000 if the border were closed. “There are factories in Mexico and there are factories in the United States that are fundamental for all the consumers in the United States and all the consumers in Mexico,” Obrador said.

Obrador’s Influence Over Migrants Crossing

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has significant influence over curbing migrants crossing the U.S. southern border illegally. In his interview with “60 Minutes”, he emphasized that Mexico should decide when to use that power.

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López Obrador defended his country’s sovereignty after House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested that the U.S. could force Mexico to comply with American immigration policy.

We Are Not A Colony

“We are not a colony. We are not a protectorate of any foreign country,” López Obrador said through an interpreter. “And we have a very good relationship with the government of the United States — but not one of subordination.”

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House Speaker Mike Johnson has urged President Biden to reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” policy for migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. During a conversation with Biden, Johnson advocated for reestablishing the Trump-era policy. “Mr. President,” Johnson said he replied, “we’re the United States. Mexico will do what we say.” 

Obrador Says Biden Respects Mexico’s Sovereignty

The Remain in Mexico policy, implemented by former President Trump, required U.S. border officials to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to Mexico, where they would await their immigration cases. 

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The U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 ruled 5-4 to rescind the policy. In contrast, López Obrador told “60 Minutes” that Biden has respected Mexico’s sovereignty.

Relationship Must Be On Equal Footing

 “Every time I speak with President Biden, the first thing he says to me is that our relationship must be on an equal footing,” López Obrador said.

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However, other American politicians have blamed Mexico for the migration challenge at the border instead of reaching agreements and addressing the root of the issue. López Obrador also criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing him of opportunism and “cheap politicking” with the border.

Trump And Biden Have Been Very Respectful

Although López Obrador won’t be in office when Americans vote in November — his own six-year term ends in September — his positive attitude towards both Biden and Trump indicates that he aims to maintain a strong relationship between Mexico and Washington, regardless of who becomes president.

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“President Trump, like President Biden, has been very respectful. Both of them,” López Obrador said. “We have had differences, but we have been able to put first the general interest of both peoples, the people of the United States and the people of Mexico.”