After DHS Secretary John Kelly visited Guatemala on Wednesday, he joined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Mexico. There, the U.S. officials met with their counterparts and with Mexican President Peña Nieto to discuss bilateral relations, including migration issues.
This visit was highly anticipated, in light of Mexico’s opposition to President Trump’s restoration of immigration enforcement.
After a meeting on Thursday morning, Tillerson and Kelly joined Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Secretary of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong for a press briefing.
Foreign Minister Videgaray gave an opening statement to welcome the U.S. officials to Mexico. He then moved to summarize the morning’s meeting. The Mexican official emphasized the need for continued dialogue, which he described as a “complex” and “not easy” process. On the subject of migration, he expressed several concerns to his U.S. counterparts: the respect of Mexicans’ human rights in the United States, “the legal impossibility of one government making decisions that affect the other in a unilateral manner,” and the need for dialogue regarding such decisions. The latter two points are an objection to the proposed U.S. action of repatriating “other than Mexican” (OTM) migrants who have traversed Mexico before infiltrating the U.S. border.
Ultimately, the Foreign Minister remarked that a long journey lies ahead to reach agreements that are in the interest of both nations.
In his comments, Tillerson emphasized the need for law and order at the shared border, and its importance in stopping terrorists and transnational criminal networks moving drugs and people into the United States. Moreover, Tillerson recognized the existing cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. to “curtail irregular migration” by securing Mexico’s southern border and supporting the Norther Triangle countries through the Alliance for Prosperity Plan.
Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior then echoed the need for dialogue between the two nations. He also expressed a concern over “mass deportations” and return of OTMs to Mexico. On the latter point, Secretary Chong said Mexico ”insists on the necessity” to maintain ordered repatriation.
Kelly made the final statements at the press briefing. In his remarks, he reiterated the need for safe, lawful, and ordered migration. Consequently, he warned against the dangers of illegal migration and emphasized other border security concerns including the smuggling of weapons and drugs.
However, Kelly’s most poignant points were directed explicitly to the press and their tendency to misinform:
Let me very, very clear. There will be no mass deportations. Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal justice system of the United States. All deportations will be according to our legal justice system which is extensive and includes multiple appeals. The focus of deportations will be on the criminal element that have made it into the United States. All of this will be done, as it always is, in close coordination with the government of Mexico.
To this he added, that there will be “no use of military in immigration.”
After the press conference, Kelly and Tillerson met with President Peña Nieto for less than an hour and made no statements after this meeting.
Overall, the tone of the visit appeared to be very diplomatic, but littered with points of contention.
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