Videgaray opposes ‘safe third country agreement’
MEXICO CITY: Mexico is opposed to a US request to make people seeking asylum in the United States apply in Mexico instead, according to a source and a briefing note, in a setback to US efforts to deepen cooperation on immigration before a leftist president takes office.
US officials believe a deal known as a “Safe Third Country Agreement”, could prove a deterrent to thousands of Central Americans who travel through Mexico each year to seek US asylum, clogging immigration courts and causing a headache for US President Donald Trump’s administration.
Yet despite growing US pressure for it to accept the treaty, Mexico views the proposal as a red line it will not cross, according to the briefing note prepared for Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray for a meeting he had with US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in Guatemala on Tuesday.
“Mexico is not in the position to accept a safe third country agreement, as the United States has proposed on previous occasions,” the note says.
“Mexico has made a significant effort to provide Central Americans detained on (Mexico’s) southern border with greater information on asylum, and recently adopted measures which allow asylum applicants to work while their case is resolved.”
The safe third country proposal would force asylum-seekers who arrive at the US land border via Mexico to apply to stay in Mexico, likely as refugees south of the border.
Many of the 2,000 or so foreign children taken from their parents recently under Mr Trump’s zero-tolerance policy against illegal immigration were separated from parents seeking asylum in the United States.
Under Mr Videgaray, Mexico has become increasingly willing to cooperate with the United States on some issues, which senior US and Mexican officials say is part of a strategy to curry favour with Washington in hopes of winning a beneficial renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The United States is hoping to consolidate improved cooperation on immigration and security before leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is sworn in as Mexican president on Dec 1, according to officials from both countries.
While Mr Lopez Obrador says he wants good relations with the United States, the nationalist-leaning leader is a long-term advocate of migrant rights and is seen as even less likely to accept an asylum pact, a senior Mexican official said.
The Mexican official, who asked to speak anonymously to discuss private bilateral discussions, said it was not clear whether Ms Nielsen had proposed the agreement in her bilateral meeting with Mr Videgaray, nor whether the Mexican minister rejected it if she did.
Videgaray: Mexico not ready to accept asylum requests.