President Biden met Tuesday with Mexico’s president at the White House as both nations face a surge in illegal border crossings and growing differences on energy, trade and the extradition of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange to the U.S., reports the Wall Street Journal. Biden and Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador discussed joint projects to modernize border infrastructure to improve the flow of people and commerce through the busiest ports of entry into the U.S. The U.S. plans to spend $3.4 billion from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law on the projects, while Mexico committed to invest $1.5 billion over two years. The leaders will also direct their teams to create a task force to fight criminal organizations and curb the flow of fentanyl, as well as create working groups focused on issues such as labor and worker protections.
The Mexican president also met with Vice President Kamala Harris, who has the responsibility of addressing the economic and social strains that the U.S. administration says is a driving force behind border crossings. The two talked about the need for public-private partnerships for investments in the region. Recent moves by López Obrador such as boycotting Biden's Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles have challenged U.S. goals. Biden pushed back on any suggestions of friction between the two leaders. “Despite the overhyped headlines that we sometimes see, you and I have a strong, productive relationship,” he said. López Obrador’s visit to Washington comes after 53 migrants, more than half of them Mexicans, died when they were left in a truck in San Antonio. López Obrador pushed Biden to increase the number of U.S. visas for guest workers from Mexico and Central America to deter illegal migration, telling him he should ignore criticism from his GOP opponents. “I know your adversaries, the conservatives, are going to be screaming all over the place,” he said. “The way out is not through conservatism. The way out is through transformation. We have to be bold in our actions.”