US Envoys Try to Lower Mexico Tensions 02/24 06:07
There were promises of cooperation, of closer economic ties, and frequent
odes to the enduring partnership between the U.S. and its southern neighbor.
But there were no public mentions of that massive border wall or President
Donald Trump's plan to deport non-Mexicans to Mexico as top U.S. officials
visited the Mexican capital.
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- There were promises of cooperation, of closer economic
ties, and frequent odes to the enduring partnership between the U.S. and its
southern neighbor. But there were no public mentions of that massive border
wall or President Donald Trump's plan to deport non-Mexicans to Mexico as top
U.S. officials visited the Mexican capital.
Instead, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson played it safe, acknowledging generally that the U.S. and Mexico
are in a period of disagreement without putting any specific dispute under the
microscope. It fell to their hosts, and especially Mexican Foreign Secretary
Luis Videgaray, to thrust those issues into the spotlight.
"It is an evident fact that Mexicans feel concern and irritation over what
are perceived as policies that may hurt Mexicans and the national interest of
Mexicans here and abroad," Videgaray said Thursday after meeting with Kelly and
The Americans focused instead on putting to rest some of the fears
reverberating across Latin America --- such as the notion that the U.S.
military might be enlisted to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally en masse.
Not so, said Kelly. He said there would be "no mass deportations" and no U.S.
"In a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign
countries from time to time will have differences," added Tillerson. "We
listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently
raised our respective concerns."
Yet those assurances rang hollow for many Mexicans, including those who said
they are being deported for things like traffic tickets.
"They were waiting for me outside," said Lucio Cervantes Campos, who was
detained in Portland, Oregon, as he came out of court after paying a ticket.
Cervantes Campos was one of about five dozen deported Mexican migrants who
arrived on a flight Thursday from the United States.
To be sure, millions of people were deported under President Barack Obama,
under the same laws Trump now is relying on. But Trump's planned crackdown has
created significant concerns for countries like Mexico that appeared no closer
to being resolved as Tillerson and Kelly returned to Washington.
Only hours before Kelly vowed "no use of military forces," Trump suggested
"It's a military operation," Trump said at the White House. He boasted that
the U.S. was "getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate nobody has
ever seen before."
The Homeland Security Department didn't respond to requests to clarify why
Trump and Kelly were making conflicting claims. At the White House, spokesman
Sean Spicer said Trump hadn't been speaking literally. He said Trump used the
"military operation" phrase "as an adjective" to describe the precision with
which immigration enforcement was being carried out.
The divergent tones from Trump and from his Cabinet officials left Mexico
with an uncomfortable decision about whom to believe. Throughout Trump's first
weeks, foreign leaders have grown increasingly skeptical as Trump's envoys
deliver soothing messages that are then negated by the president.
A new approach unveiled this week prioritizes deportation for anyone charged
or convicted of any crime, rather than just serious crimes. That potentially
subjects many more to deportation, many Mexicans included. Mexico was
particularly incensed that the U.S. announced --- without Mexico's sign-off ---
that people caught crossing the border illegally will be sent back to Mexico
--- even those from third countries who have no connection to Mexico.
Those policies have stoked fears about the possibility of deportee and
refugee camps emerging along Mexico's northern border. Mexican officials were
also apprehensive that a forthcoming report ordered by Trump's administration
listing all current U.S. aid to Mexico is intended to threaten Mexico into
compliance over immigration or the wall.
Still, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong was cautious in his
disapproval. He said he'd stressed to the Americans that any immigration steps
"should be discussed and to the extent possible, subject to consensus."
"We have expressed our concern about a possible increase in deportations and
the possibility that citizens of other countries may be returned to our
territory, until their legal situation is resolved," Osorio Chong said.
Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope said Osorio Chong's
reaction may have been part of Mexico's traditionally cautious, soft-spoken
"It could be one of those displays of courtesy that these people use" in
government relations, Hope said.
Tillerson and Kelly also met behind closed doors with Mexican President
Enrique Pena Nieto before returning to Washington. Pena Nieto recently canceled
a trip to Washington over Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for the wall. It
has not been rescheduled.
Mexico has also raised concerns about Trump's pledge to overhaul the trade
relationship and possibly apply steep taxes to Mexican products, a move with
profound impacts for Mexico's export-heavy economy. Tillerson said the leaders
had agreed the trade relationship needed to be modernized and strengthened.