In Mexico Relationship, Biden Prioritizes 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion' Over Immigration and National Security

Meeting with Mexican president comes amid record migrant encounters and escalating cartel violence

President Joe Biden and Mexican president Lopez Obrador (Getty Images)
January 17, 2023

President Joe Biden passed up a chance last week to press his Mexican counterpart about the unprecedented border crisis and escalating cartel violence. Instead, he chose to discuss "diversity, equity, and inclusion" and "climate change" initiatives.

One day after Biden's Jan. 9 sitdown with Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the White House released a list of six "commitments" secured through the meeting. At the top of that list is a pledge to advance "diversity, equity, and inclusion," with Biden and López Obrador vowing to "promote racial justice," "expand protections for LGBTQI+ individuals," and "foster Indigenous-led growth." Second on the list is a commitment to "tackle the climate crisis" and implement "ambitious cuts to emissions."  National security and immigration, however, ranked much lower—Biden listed those issues last and third to last, respectively.

Biden's decision to place equity at the forefront of his Mexico meeting came amid an ongoing crisis at the southern border, and one Republican lawmaker told the Washington Free Beacon Biden's focus on diversity is unserious. Illegal immigration soared to record levels last year, with migrant apprehensions topping 2.3 million, a 37 percent increase from the 1.7 million seen in 2021. The American people, meanwhile, want action on the border: 54 percent of midterm voters identified immigration as a "very important" issue, a November Pew Research Center poll found, compared with just 34 percent and 38 percent who identified racial issues and climate change, respectively. Still, immigration went "largely unaddressed" during Biden's meeting with López Obrador, Bloomberg reported, because the two sides "ran out of time."

Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.), who last week urged Biden to use the Mexico meeting to "take serious steps to secure our border," called the Democrat's focus on diversity "ridiculous." Waltz highlighted the wave of cartel violence seen across Mexico prior to Biden's visit, violence that the Republican says will only expedite the flow of drugs into the United States as the Mexican Army takes "dozens of casualties per week."

"Our border is being controlled by the cartels, and the Biden administration clearly doesn't want to deal with it in a serious way," Waltz told the Free Beacon. "It's disappointing and a huge missed opportunity."

The White House did not return a request for comment.

While Biden did touch on immigration and national security at the bottom of his commitment list, neither section is likely to satisfy border hawks. That's because Biden's immigration section, which is titled "Migration and Development," does not mention border security. Instead, it pledges to "address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement" and collaborate with Mexico to "counter xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and refugees." Biden's "Regional Security" section, meanwhile, includes a commitment to "integrate a gender perspective" into the United States' and Mexico's response to natural disasters, given the "differentiated impact disasters have on women and girls."

The Biden administration's focus on diversity while in Mexico went beyond the White House. On Jan. 10, Biden's State Department issued a "Declaration on the North American Partnership for Equity and Racial Justice," which saw secretaries of state from the United States, Mexico, and Canada declare their commitment to "affirmatively advance equity and racial justice," "engage communities with lived experience of racism and discrimination," and "reflect the diversity of our nations in our federal public services workforce."