Mex­ico draws line on de­por­ta­tions

U.S. floats op­tion of tak­ing third-coun­try de­por­tees; of­fi­cial says ‘no chance’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - CHRISTO­PHER SHER­MAN

MEX­ICO CITY — The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment made clear to vis­it­ing U.S. emis­saries that it will not ac­cept de­por­tees from third coun­tries un­der any cir­cum­stances, the in­te­rior sec­re­tary said Fri­day.

Miguel An­gel Oso­rio Chong said in an in­ter­view with Ra­dio For­mula that U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly asked Mex­i­can of­fi­cials dur­ing their Thurs­day visit if they would host de­por­tees from other coun­tries while their im­mi­gra­tion cases are pro­cessed in the U.S.

“They can’t leave them here on the bor­der be­cause we have to re­ject them. There is no chance they would be re­ceived by Mex­ico,” Oso­rio Chong said of the de­por­tees.

“They asked us that while their le­gal process is hap­pen­ing there if they could be here,” he said. “And we told them that there’s no way we can have them here dur­ing that process.”

The visit by the U.S. sec­re­taries came at a tense mo­ment in U.S.-Mex­ico re­la­tions. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has car­ried his tough cam­paign talk about immigrants and fac­tory jobs that moved to Mex­ico into the White House, or­der­ing the build­ing of a bor­der wall, stepped-up de­por­ta­tions and a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

A memo pub­lished by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity ear­lier this week sug­gested that U.S. im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials could de­port immigrants in the coun­try il­le­gally to the con­tigu­ous coun­try from which they came — which in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases would be Mex­ico.

Since 2014, the num­ber of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans flee­ing vi­o­lence and poverty cap­tured at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der has out­num­bered the num­ber of Mex­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion data. In fis­cal 2016, the Bor­der Pa­trol ap­pre­hended 58,819 un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren and 73,888 fam­ily units along the south­west bor­der. Most were from El Sal­vador, Hon­duras and Gu­atemala.

Last year, the Bor­der Pa­trol ap­pre­hended 408,870 peo­ple along the south­west bor­der, a far cry from the more than 1.5 mil­lion an­nual ap­pre­hen­sions in 1999 and 2000. Mex­ico has also stepped up its im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment along its south­ern bor­der, ap­pre­hend­ing and de­port­ing more Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants try­ing to reach the U.S.

Oso­rio Chong also said Fri­day that if the U.S. gov­ern­ment tries to pres­sure Mex­ico by threat­en­ing to with­draw funding from the nearly $2.5 bil­lion Merida Ini­tia­tive to fight or­ga­nized crime, Mex­ico will let that money go.

The ini­tia­tive that was started in 2008 is wind­ing down, and most of the re­main­ing funding is go­ing to Mex­i­can states im­ple­ment­ing over­hauls of the jus­tice sys­tem, Oso­rio Chong said. In its early years, Merida out­fit­ted Mex­ico’s mil­i­tary with he­li­copters and trained its se­cu­rity forces.

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