LATIN AMERICA

Peña Nieto visits California amid child migrant crisis

Mexican president will meet with immigrant community and talk to the state assembly

Peña Nieto in Mexico DF last Friday.
Peña Nieto in Mexico DF last Friday.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto begins his official two-day visit to California on Monday amid a controversy over both countries’ treatment of undocumented migrant children crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. The president, who will meet with members of Mexico’s large migrant community, is returning California Governor Jerry Brown’s visit in late July when he signed various agreements on climate change, education, energy and trade.

The United States’ southern neighbor is the largest market for California, the state that sits at the top of the American economic ladder. Trade between Mexico and California is nearly equivalent to the former’s business with the entire European Union, totalling about $60 billion. The visit comes just as Mexico begins to undergo rapid economic changes aimed at liberalizing its markets, especially in the energy and telecommunications sectors. “Mexico is an incredible opportunity for California’s businesses,” Brown said during his visit to Mexico City in July.

The Pew Research Center estimates that there were more than 33 million people of Mexican descent in the United States in 2012. One-third, or more than 11 million of them, were born on Mexican soil. More than half of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants are from Mexico and one third of these live in California, making the state home to the largest population of undocumented individuals.

California is the country’s most populous state with 38 million residents and 38 percent of them identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 80 percent of California’s Latinos are Mexican or of Mexican descent.

The visit comes just as Mexico begins to undergo rapid economic changes aimed at liberalizing its markets

Peña Nieto’s trip to the state begins in downtown Los Angeles where he will meet various representatives of the migrant community, including members of the Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM). This meeting is the only event on the agenda that is open to the public.

On Tuesday, the president will lunch with Governor Brown and a group of business leaders. Then, the Mexican leader will speak before the California State Assembly before returning to Mexico City.

Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Environment Minister Juan José Guerra Abud, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal and Tourism Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas will join the president on the trip.

Governor Brown is running for reelection in November and Democrats are hoping to take advantage of the Latino vote that has supported them for the last decade. The governor’s office emphasizes his support of immigrants’ rights over the last three years. Brown has signed laws to give undocumented individuals access to student loans and drivers’ licenses. Last Thursday, he said his office would allocate $3 million to provide legal assistance to undocumented minors who have crossed the border into California.

Translation: Dyane Jean François