In Mex­ico, Pom­peo urged to re­unite migrant fam­i­lies

Pro­test­ers jeer at U.S. mo­tor­cade

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION & WORLD - BY SUSANNAH GE­ORGE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MEX­ICO CITY — Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto on Fri­day urged a U.S. del­e­ga­tion led by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo to quickly re­unite migrant fam­i­lies sep­a­rated at the bor­der.

Peña Ni­eto said in a state­ment he called for “a per­ma­nent al­ter­na­tive that pri­or­i­tizes the well-be­ing and rights of mi­nors.”

Pom­peo vis­ited Mex­ico with Cab­i­net-level of­fi­cials to meet with both Peña Ni­eto and pres­i­dent-elect An­drés Manuel Lopéz Obrador af­ter a sea-change elec­tion that could of­fer a chance for the neigh­bors to re­pair strained re­la­tions.

Dis­cus­sions were ex­pected to ad­dress ways to com­bat transna­tional crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions, the U.S. opi­oid epi­demic and trade ten­sions. But ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion across Mex­ico’s north­ern bor­der into the United States loomed large dur­ing the meet­ings.

“The United States is com­mit­ted to mak­ing mea­sur­able progress to en­sure se­cu­rity on both sides of that bor­der,” Pom­peo told jour­nal­ists.

U.S.-Mex­i­can ties have de­te­ri­o­rated sig­nif­i­cantly un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who cam­paigned on building a bor­der wall and has re­peat­edly blamed Mex­ico for eco­nomic and so­cial prob­lems in the United States.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House ad­viser Jared Kush­ner ac­com­pa­nied Pom­peo, as well as Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen. They met first with Peña Ni­eto and then with the pres­i­dent-elect.

Dozens of pro­test­ers jeered at Pom­peo’s mo­tor­cade as the del­e­ga­tion ar­rived to con­grat­u­late Lopéz Obrador.

Many of the pro­test­ers con­demned the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “zero tol­er­ance” im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that sep­a­rated fam­i­lies at­tempt­ing to claim asy­lum in the United States. The vast ma­jor­ity of child mi­grants sep­a­rated at the bor­der were Cen­tral Amer­i­cans, not Mex­i­cans.

“Where are our chil­dren?” read one sign. Oth­ers read, “Stop Trump” and “ICE is a ter­ror­ist” — re­fer­ring to the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency.

Pom­peo ac­knowl­edged strains in U.S.-Mex­i­can re­la­tions when he greeted Lopéz Obrador, but pledged the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion val­ues the bi­lat­eral ties.

“We know there have been bumps in the road be­tween our two coun­tries, but Pres­i­dent Trump is de­ter­mined to make the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our peo­ples bet­ter and stronger,” Pom­peo said. “We wanted to come down here to let you know that Pres­i­dent Trump cares deeply for the suc­cess of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two coun­tries. Our pres­ence here to­day sig­nals that to you.”

Shar­ing a nearly 2,000mile bor­der, Mex­ico and the United States have tra­di­tion­ally co­or­di­nated closely on se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion. Mex­ico is also the United States’ third­largest trad­ing part­ner for goods, with the U.S. buy­ing about 80 per­cent of Mex­ico’s ex­ports, in­clud­ing au­to­mo­biles, fruit, veg­eta­bles and beer.

Marcelo Ebrard, who is slated to be the next Mex­i­can top diplo­mat, de­scribed the meet­ing be­tween Pom­peo and the pres­i­dent-elect as “frank, re­spect­ful and cor­dial.” They shared with the U.S. del­e­ga­tion pro­pos­als for co­op­er­a­tion in com­merce, de­vel­op­ment, se­cu­rity and mi­gra­tion.

But Ebrard said they did not dis­cuss one idea that a Mex­i­can of­fi­cial says has been pro­posed to ad­dress ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion: declar­ing Mex­ico a “safe third coun­try.” That would mean peo­ple trav­el­ing through Mex­ico hop­ing to claim asy­lum in the U.S. would have to do so in Mex­ico in­stead.

Such a pro­posal is un­likely to gar­ner sup­port in Mex­ico as it would bur­den the coun­try with tens of thou­sands more asy­lum seekers a year, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to brief the me­dia.

Re­la­tions have also been strained by tit-for-tat trade tar­iffs be­tween Mex­ico and the U.S. amid tense ne­go­ti­a­tions over the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, or NAFTA, and fears of a trade war. Trump has branded the free trade pact, which also in­cludes Canada, as a job killer for Amer­i­cans.

In his state­ment, Peña Ni­eto em­pha­sized his gov­ern­ment’s will­ing­ness to con­tinue rene­go­ti­at­ing NAFTA to reach a deal “as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

PRESS OF­FICE OF AN­DRÉS MANUEL LOPÉZ OBRADOR

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, third from left, stands with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent-elect An­drés Manuel Lopéz Obrador, se­cond from right, and, from left, White House se­nior ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and Obrador as­so­ciate Marcelo Ebrard in Mex­ico City.

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