His goal, he wrote, was that people could find jobs at home so that migration would be an option, not a necessity.
It was an ambitious proposal to a president who has focused on enforcement as the tool to limit migration into the United States. But then events in Central America took a turn that pushed the issue of migration to the forefront.
In October, migrants leaving Honduras formed a caravan to the United States, finding safety in numbers on the treacherous trip through Mexico, where they are prey for gangs.
Mr. López Obrador took a generous approach. There would be room for migrants in his development program in southern Mexico, he said, and his incoming interior minister, Olga Sánchez Cordero, discussed granting one million work visas to Central Americans.
But this weekend provided a case study of the problem brewing at the border.
Reports leaked that Mr. López Obrador’s government was in talks to potentially house all migrants applying for asylum in the United States within Mexico’s borders. Nearly as soon as the idea surfaced, cabinet officials insisted that no decision had been made.
“It is a complicated situation, but AMLO also has the opportunity to seize this crisis and this big moment,” said Claudia Masferrer, a migration expert at Colegio de México.
“In the short term, however, he has to deal with the migrants reaching the border and the tension in Tijuana,” she added, noting the rising anger at the migrants inside Mexico. “Even though AMLO has a high approval rate, this will create a strong opposition against him.”
First, Mr. López Obrador needs to “try to calm people down on Dec. 1,” when he takes office, she said, “because things are really heated up right now.”