With net migration from Mexico falling to zero, thanks to a weakened U.S. economy and tough border enforcement measures, the leaders could address ways to bring in more laborers legally from Mexico to work in sectors like agriculture.
"Fundamentally what [Mexico] want in terms of immigration is recognition that Mexican labor is critical to the well-being of the United States economy, "said Farnsworth.
Peña Nieto wrote in The Washington Post that it is a "mistake" to limit the U.S.-Mexico relationship to drugs and security concerns. But the fact is that the drug war remains one of the most pressing topics.
Mexico's war on drug cartels, which is aided by the U.S., is largely mired in a stalemate and has resulted in the deaths of at least 60,000 people since the effort began in 2006 under President Felipe Calderón, according to reports.
The drug war is the main driver of Mexico's negative image in the U.S., with 72 percent of Americans naming drug-related violence as the main reason for their perception, according to the Vianovo study.
Peña Nieto has said he will continue the fight against the cartels, but that he will re-think Calderón's approach by focusing more on street-crime reduction and bolstering the country's police force to fight the drug organizations instead of relying heavily on the military as is done now.
"Both of our nations are seriously affected by organized-crime activities and drug trafficking. Working against them must be a shared responsibility. I will continue the efforts begun by President Felipe Calderón, but the strategy must necessarily change," wrote Peña Nieto in the Post.
Burgeoning support for the legalization of marijuana also comes as a backdrop to the talks. Colorado and Washington in November became the first states in the U.S. to legalize the drug for recreational use.
In addition, some Latin American countries are rethinking their approach. Uruguay is considering a proposal backed by President José Mujica to legalize and regulate the production of small amounts of recreational pot. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has even floated the idea of international drug legalization.
But both Obama and Peña Nieto do not back legalization and instead will focus on how best to execute the drug war moving forward.
Peña Nieto could ask for stronger U.S. cooperation in its anti-cartel efforts in terms of reducing the demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. and stopping the flow of automatic weapons and laundered money south of the border. The president-elect is also expected to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday.
"Is this going to become a real partnership or just a finger pointing exercise?" asked Farnsworth.
The U.S. and Mexican economies are not only linked by immigration, but by trade. Mexico, A North American Free Trade Agreement Partner, is the U.S.'s third-largest trading partner behind Canada and China, engaging in more than $369 billion in trade activity (imports and exports) with the United States this year alone, according to Census data.
The U.S. doubles as Mexico's largest trading partner, with nearly 80 percent of Mexican goods being exported to the U.S. and more than half of Mexico's total imports coming from the U.S.
Mexico has also joined in talks with the U.S. and other nations to form a Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asian countries. And Peña Nieto has spoken about opening up Mexico's energy industry to private and foreign investment.