EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration will propose issuing 300,000 temporary work visas to Mexicans and Central Americans to ease migration challenges in both countries, Mexico’s minister of the Interior says.
“It’s a high price, in terms of social costs, for our country to be a crossing point for migrants and every day we’re talking with the American government to try to generate (better) conditions,” Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez said Wednesday in a speech to the business community in Tijuana, Mexico.
Lopez said the proposal will be announced when Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador visits Washington, D.C., next month.
“The American government agreed to issue, initially, 300,000 temporary work visas; 150,000 will be for Mexicans or for foreigners who are currently in Mexico waiting for the possibility to migrate north,” Lopez said in Tijuana. Border Report has a transcript of his speech.
The Interior minister said the other 150,000 temporary work visas will be “proportionally distributed” among Central American countries.
“That, I think, will help us reduce the tension,” Lopez said referring to the hundreds of thousands of third-country migrants passing through Mexico every year on their way to the United States.
In an email to Border Report, the White House press office said the U.S. issued 350,000 agricultural and non-agricultural work visas to foreign nationals and has been working with the governments of Mexico, Haiti and Central American nations to expand those programs. Already, at this month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a commitment was made to add 11,500 seasonal worker visas for Central Americans and Haitians, the White House said.
“For many years, the United States has had a robust seasonal worker program with Mexico, which has allowed an alternative to irregular migration that fills critical labor needs in the U.S. economy,” the email said.
But there was no mention of the 300,000 visas Lopez mentioned, and Tony Payan, director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy’s Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University, wonders where such visas will come from.
“There is no legal way in which the visa system in the United States can accommodate 300,000 additional visas for workers. That doesn’t mean the U.S. doesn’t need the labor, but the U.S. is about to go into an economic slowdown if not an outright recession,” Payan said. “It doesn’t look to me legally or economically feasible at this time.”
Thousands of Mexicans each year come into the United States on visas for agricultural work and seasonal non-agricultural work; both have a cap. But the need for agricultural workers is limited and the current demand for labor is construction, hospitality, food processing and manufacturing, Payan said.
“Legally there is no type of visa that can apply to those kinds of workers, that’s one of the reasons we have 11.5 million undocumented workers in the United States,” he said. “I don’t see what type of visa they have in mind.”
Usually, it is the U.S. Congress that approves changes to existing visas. Sen. Dick Durbin in March, for instance, introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, which was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. H-1B visas are usually for specialized foreign workers; L-1 visas are for companies to transfer managers from foreign locales to U.S. sites.
Nonetheless, Lopez said there’s a need to ease migration pressures.
“Neither Mexicans nor Central Americans migrate just because they want to, they migrate because of need. And the daily contribution of Mexican migrants (in the United States) helps Mexico progress,” he said.
Last year, Mexicans working in the United States sent $51.6 billion home – a big increase over the $40.6 billion they mailed, wired or sent through courier to relatives in 2020, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center.