But the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus will keep Blinken and his entourage behind large TV monitors in Washington, while concerns about a surge of migrants on the southern border will keep the subject matter of discussions fairly serious.
“We’re trying to make diplomatic lemonade out of the lemons that 2020 and 2021 have dealt us,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the upcoming itinerary.
Blinken begins his slate of meetings with Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, and secretary of economy, Tatiana Clouthier. The virtual setting will be the Paso Del Norte — which links El Paso and Ciudad Juárez — where Blinken “will discuss cooperation between Mexico and the United States to manage migration flows and travel across the U.S.-Mexico border,” the official said.
The next several weeks will be a critical test for the Biden administration as it transitions from campaigning on a friendlier posture toward migrants to managing a largely dysfunctional U.S. immigration system. The Biden administration’s goal is to make immigration more “humane” and “orderly” without triggering a rush to the border that creates unsafe conditions and fresh criticism from anti-illegal-immigration hard-liners in Congress.
The Biden administration remains committed to doing away with the “cruel” policies of the Trump era, the official said, while it tries to stress that “would-be migrants” should not journey to the United States because it is “dangerous, even more so because of covid.”
Following his meetings with Mexican leaders, Blinken will conduct a virtual visit with Canadian leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau and other cabinet members.
“They will discuss a common approach to global challenges, such as protecting our citizens from the pandemic and reinvigorating our economies,” the official said.
Biden rankled Canada’s leaders early in his tenure by blocking the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline project designed to pump oil sands crude from Canada to Nebraska, and pushing a “Buy American” program they said could threaten Canadian manufacturers.
But Trudeau and Biden sought to bury the hatchet during their first virtual meeting this week, and both stressed solidarity in the countries’ relationship. “The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada,” Biden told Trudeau during a videoconference. The two spoke for about two hours and pledged to work together against the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, with the hope of achieving net-zero emissions in less than 30 years.