The Mexican government is strongly controlling the optics of a visit today by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and DHS Secretary General John Kelly. [An upcoming press conference live stream is embedded below ] Mexico fears the projection of U.S. strength will undermine their position.
President Trump is taking a hard-line approach with Mexico’s central policies that have allowed, and in many cases facilitated, vast numbers of economic migrants to travel into the U.S. Trump’s pending policies are going to be weighted heavily on the feedback he receives from T-Rex and General Kelly’s visit.
(Via AP) […] On Tuesday, the Trump administration issued guidance on deportations that broadens the scope of deportations from a previous focus on criminals to apply to every undocumented immigrant in the US. It also enables state and local law enforcement to act as immigration officers.
Another change to asylum procedures would make it easier for immigration officers to send non-Mexican migrants to Mexico if they came through the country on their way to the US. The change could potentially send tens of thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence, gangs and drug cartels back into Mexico, an issue Kelly and Tillerson will almost certainly have to address.
A Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters, told CNN that Kelly and Tillerson will hear from Pena Nieto, Videgaray and other officials that Mexico will not take deportees who are not Mexican nationals. A second official pointed out that is no bilateral agreement that requires Mexico to take these immigrants and that Mexico isn’t bound by any US presidential order. There is nothing the US can’t do to force the matter, this official said.
And Mexico has some leverage, the second official said. Mexico has been stopping Central American migrants before they reach the US for more than two years, the official said, adding that if Trump doesn’t stop his “orders,” it will make it more difficult for Mexico to continue this cooperation. [*snip* that’s not leverage, that’s “blackmail”… /SD]
Trump may be trying to figure out his own ways to apply pressure to get Mexico to pay. He has suggested putting a 20% tariff on Mexican goods entering the US and his campaign has floated the idea of seizing remittances from Mexicans in the US sending money home.
The President has also ordered Cabinet agencies to inform him of the total direct and indirect aid the US gives Mexico, a move that some see as an attempt to amass some leverage in the debate over the border wall that Trump insists will be built and that Mexico will pay for. Mexican officials have repeatedly said they will do no such thing.
Under the Merida Initiative, the State Dept has given Mexico $2.6 billion since 2008. That’s to strengthen rule of law, counter narco-trafficking, support judicial reform and police professionalization. It doesn’t include aid from other State Department programs. Mexico also gets funding from the departments of Defense, Energy, Labor, Health and Human Services, Interior, the Peace Corps, the US Agency for International Development and DHS.
Kelly distributed an implementation memo on February 21 asking his staff to calculate how much direct and indirect aid DHS gives Mexico. That process is still underway. (link)