Mex­ico asks Pompeo’s help on migrant kids

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

MEX­ICO CITY — Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto on Fri­day urged a U.S. del­e­ga­tion led by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pompeo to quickly re­unite migrant fam­i­lies sep­a­rated at the bor­der. Pena Ni­eto called for “a per­ma­nent al­ter­na­tive that pri­or­i­tizes the well-be­ing and rights of mi­nors” and ex­pressed con­cern over a re­cent at­tack on a 92-year-old Mex­i­can man legally re­sid­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, a state­ment from the pres­i­dency said. The man was re­port­edly beaten by a woman with a brick and told, “Go back to your coun­try.” Pena Ni­eto said such in­ci­dents “en­cour­age a cli­mate of hate and racism that we must avoid.” Pompeo was vis­it­ing Mex­ico with Cab­i­net-level of­fi­cials to meet with both Pena Ni­eto and Pres­i­dent-elect An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador. 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 U. S. also loomed large. “The United States is com­mit­ted to mak­ing mea­sur­able progress to en­sure se­cu­rity on both sides of that bor­der,” Pompeo told jour­nal­ists. U.S.-Mex­ico 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. Pompeo was ac­com­pa­nied by Trump’s son-in-law and White House ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen. They of­fered con­grat­u­la­tions to the pres­i­dent-elect. They met first with Pena Ni­eto and then with the left­ist, pop­ulist Lopez Obrador. Dozens of protesters jeered as Pompeo’s mo­tor­cade ap­proached Lopez Obrador’s of­fice, many con­demn­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “zero tol­er­ance” im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that sep­a­rated fam­i­lies at­tempt­ing to claim asy­lum in the United States. Pompeo of­fered con­grat­u­la­tions to the pres­i­dent-elect. “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,” Pompeo said. “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.” Shar­ing a nearly 2,000-mile bor­der, Mex­ico and the United States have tra­di­tion­ally co­or­di­nated closely on se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion. Mex­ico is also the United States’ third-largest 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 set 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. That has sparked fears of an all-out trade war. Trump has branded the free trade pact, which also in­cludes Canada, as a job killer for Amer­i­cans.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Mark Steven­son, Peter Orsi, Christo­pher Sher­man and Joe Bill Munoz of The As­so­ci­ated Press.


Pena Ni­eto

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