Trump, home se­cu­rity chief at odds over de­por­ta­tion or­ders to Mex­ico

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOSH LE­D­ER­MAN

MEX­ICO CITY — Seek­ing to tamp down grow­ing un­ease in Latin Amer­ica, U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly pledged Thurs­day that Amer­ica won’t en­list its mil­i­tary to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws and that there will be “no mass de­por­ta­tions.”

Only hours ear­lier, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested the op­po­site. He told CEOs at the White House the de­por­ta­tion push was a “mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.”

Kelly, speak­ing in Mex­ico’s cap­i­tal, said all de­por­ta­tions will hon­our hu­man rights and fol­low the U.S. le­gal sys­tem. He said that in­cludes mul­ti­ple ap­peals of­fered to those fac­ing de­por­ta­tion. Kelly said the U.S. ap­proach will in­volve “close co-or­di­na­tion” with Mex­ico’s gov­ern­ment.

“There will be no use of mil­i­tary forces in im­mi­gra­tion,” Kelly said. “There will be no — re­peat, no — mass de­por­ta­tions.”

While Kelly and U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son tried to al­le­vi­ate Mex­ico’s con­cerns, Trump was fan­ning them fur­ther with tough talk about “get­ting re­ally bad dudes out of this coun­try at a rate no­body has ever seen.”

“It’s a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion,” Trump said Thurs­day while his en­voys were in Mex­ico City. “Be­cause what has been al­lowed to come into our coun­try, when you see gang vi­o­lence that you’ve read about like never be­fore and all of the things, much of that is peo­ple who are here il­le­gally.”

It was a dif­fer­ent mes­sage and tone from Kelly and Tiller­son, who trav­elled to Mex­ico’s cap­i­tal to meet with top Mex­i­can of­fi­cials at a time of in­tense tur­bu­lence for U.S.-Mex­ico re­la­tions. In­deed, Trump ac­knowl­edged he had sent his top diplo­mat south of the bor­der on a “tough trip.”

In con­trast to Trump, Tiller­son and Kelly fo­cused on what they de­scribed as a solid U.S. com­mit­ment to work closely with Mex­ico on bor­der se­cu­rity, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and traf­fick­ing of drugs and weapons — is­sues Trump has made a cen­tral fo­cus of his young pres­i­dency, much to Mex­ico’s dis­may. Both Tiller­son and Kelly ap­peared to down­play any ma­jor rift be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico.

“In a re­la­tion­ship filled with vi­brant colours, two strong sov­er­eign coun­tries from time to time will have dif­fer­ences,” Tiller­son said. “We lis­tened closely and care­fully to each other as we re­spect­fully and pa­tiently raised our re­spec­tive con­cerns.”

For Mex­ico, that pa­tience ap­peared to be run­ning short. For­eign Re­la­tions Sec­re­tary Luis Vide­garay noted the “pub­lic and no­to­ri­ous dif­fer­ences” be­tween the coun­tries and said the Mex­i­cans had raised the “le­gal im­pos­si­bil­ity” of a gov­ern­ment mak­ing “uni­lat­eral” de­ci­sions af­fect­ing an­other coun­try. Vide­garay has pre­vi­ously raised the prospect Mex­ico could seek re­course at the United Na­tions or else­where for U.S. moves vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional law.

“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.

Mex­ico is in­censed 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.

Both coun­tries said it was pos­i­tive that the neigh­bours re­mained com­mit­ted to work­ing through the dis­putes diplo­mat­i­cally, though there were no in­di­ca­tions they were any closer to a res­o­lu­tion. As the Amer­i­cans wrapped up their Mex­ico visit, they re­mained at odds with their hosts over the de­por­ta­tions and over the mas­sive bor­der wall Trump has vowed to con­struct at Mex­ico’s ex­pense.

Trump spoke dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign about us­ing a “de­por­ta­tion force,” and his Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment at one point con­sid­ered us­ing the Na­tional Guard to help with de­por­ta­tions, al­though the White House has said that idea has been ruled out.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests to clar­ify why Trump’s re­mark about “a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion” had con­flicted with that of Kelly, who blamed the me­dia for “mis­re­port­ing.” At the White House, spokesper­son 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.

In ad­di­tion to send­ing bor­der-crossers from third coun­tries into Mex­ico, new memos signed by Kelly this week pri­or­i­tize de­por­ta­tion for any­one charged or con­victed of any crime, rather than just se­ri­ous crimes. That sub­jects mil­lions in the U.S. il­le­gally to de­por­ta­tion, in­clud­ing many Mex­i­cans.

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