Mexico's Ambassador to US hopes Biden offers ‘path to legality’ for undocumented Mexicans

Barcena says the U.S. needs to “overhaul its immigration laws” and restore DACA.

Updated: December 19, 2020 - 11:02am

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Martha Barcena, Mexico's ambassador to the United States, wants Joe Biden to offer a “path to legality” for undocumented Mexican workers living in the U.S. and fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

“We need to work very closely with the U.S. government and Congress to address the root causes of migration and at the same time, giving a path to legality to all these workers and Mexicans that have contributed enormously, not only to Mexico, but to the U.S.,” she said during a discussion hosted by The Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy's Center for the U.S. and Mexico.

Barcena said she would also like to see Biden eliminate the “decree on public charge” that was implemented under the Trump administration.

Under current law, eligible immigrants are able to receive legal status if they demonstrate evidence that they won’t become a “public charge” as well as meet other requirements. The Trump administration adopted new criteria that would prevent immigrants who have relied on public assistance programs from receiving legal status.

"Another thing that can be done without changing the legislation is to end the executive decree on public charge and that will give certainty to many families that are mixed marriages or who have children that are U.S. citizens, and that they are not going to get health, help or food stamps because they're afraid of then losing their chances to get a green card,” she said. “Then we have DACA which Biden promised that they would change and now it has been changed by a judge although we have pending issues.”

The DACA program has been challenged in Texas court. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Barcena said the U.S. needs to “overhaul its immigration laws” and both the U.S. and Mexico must “commonly address the root causes of migration, creating employment opportunities not only in Mexico, but in Central America.”

She reflected on how the pandemic has impacted the U.S. and Mexican economies.

“The COVID-19 crisis has really affected very drastically the economies of both countries. Mexico’s economy is going to decrease around 9% this year. The government has put emphasis in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. It has not contracted additional debt. That has been criticized, but at the same time, I think it will be the strength of Mexico in the near future; not be so much in debt,” she added.

Barcena recently announced that she is retiring. Mexican Education Secretary Esteban Moctezuma has been nominated as the new Mexican ambassador to the U.S. but he has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

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