Mexican President López Obrador to Propose Cooperative Immigration Plan During Climate Summit

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

As President Biden’s April 22 climate summit approaches, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico has announced by video that he will propose a new migration agreement between the nations of North America this week. This proposal would ask Central American and Mexican emigrants to work planting trees and crops in Mexico for three years in exchange for a six-month U.S. work visa and eventually the right to apply for U.S. citizenship. The proposal is an effort to deal with the influx at the U.S.-Mexican border of Central American migrants fleeing two recent Category 4 hurricanes and the economic pressures of the pandemic.  The U.S. did not comment on the proposal.

Why This Matters: As global temperatures warm, there will be a surge of predominantly impoverished climate refugees and migrants to many countries including here. President Biden has called on the world to aid climate migrants and has ordered government officials to consider “options for protection and resettlement” of people looking to come to the U.S.  Former President George W. Bush recently urged Congress to ‘Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside tryin’ to score political points on either side.’ on CBS Sunday Morning.  Planting trees and creating jobs in Mexico for these impoverished families seems like a novel approach.  

North by Northwest

Climate disasters have displaced many immigrants traveling to Mexico and the U.S., but the U.S. and Mexico are fighting climate disasters of their own. The U.S. is staring down the worst wildfire and hurricane seasons in history, and, according to Global Forest Watch, deforestation in Mexico releases 52.7 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. Mexico is eager to begin reforestation programs and kick start a post-pandemic economic recovery. López Obrador hopes that his proposal can accomplish both of those tasks while sharing responsibility with the U.S. to create space for climate migrants heading north. The U.S., however, is still trying to put its unemployed population back to work, and President Biden plans to accomplish that with significant investments in green energy infrastructure.

López Obrador says the “Bracero style” plan would offer economic and other incentives to migrants and would be an extension of an existing welfare program called Sembrando Vida, or Sowing Life. The original Bracero program allowed Mexican workers to fill labor shortages in the United States during and after World War II. López Obrador said, “we can plant three million hectares in three years and give up to 1.2-1.3 million jobs to Central American brothers and to Mexicans.” López Obrador has proposed allowing 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American migrants to work in the U.S. each year. “You (Americans) are going to need Mexican and Central American workers to produce, to grow,” said López Obrador. “It is better that we start putting order on migratory flows.”

Politicians across the aisle think it’s time for a change; former President George W. Bush recently urged Congress to ‘Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration. Please put aside tryin’ to score political points on either side.’ on CBS Sunday Morning. As more unaccompanied minors approach the southern U.S. border, the nation’s resources are as stressed as ever. President Biden has promised to provide a path to citizenship for 11 million currently undocumented residents but has also asked Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to tighten border control. López Obrador is one of 40 world leaders invited to attend Biden’s virtual Earth Day summit later this week, but the administration has not specified if it will discuss climate migration.

To Go Deeper: Watch the Video by President López Obrador – note it’s in Spanish.

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