ShareThis Page
Allegheny

Pompeo visits Mexico, is urged to reunite migrant families

| Friday, July 13, 2018, 7:45 p.m.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second right, and staff arrive at Los Pinos presidential residence for a visit with Mexico's President Enrique Nieto in Mexico City, Friday, July 13, 2018. Both Mexican and American officials are meeting throughout the day to discuss border, crime, and trade issues affecting both countries. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second right, and staff arrive at Los Pinos presidential residence for a visit with Mexico's President Enrique Nieto in Mexico City, Friday, July 13, 2018. Both Mexican and American officials are meeting throughout the day to discuss border, crime, and trade issues affecting both countries. (AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)

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 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 Pena Nieto and president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez 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.-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.

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 Pena Nieto and then with the president-elect.

Dozens of protesters jeered at Pompeo’s motorcade as the delegation arrived to congratulate the leftist, populist Lopez 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.-Mexico relations when he greeted Lopez 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 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) 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 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, Pena Nieto emphasized his government’s willingness to continue renegotiating NAFTA to reach a deal “as quickly as possible.”

Despite positive statements from both sides, the upcoming transition of power in Mexico has the potential to further destabilize U.S.-Mexico relations if either leader takes aim at the other to appeal to his political base at home. They’re unlikely partners, as they occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Lopez Obrador has already announced his government will cancel a pending purchase of U.S. helicopters as an example of cost-cutting measures. The sale was initially promoted by Washington as a move that would help a strategic partner fight against criminal organizations.

And November midterm elections in the U.S. bring the possibility that Trump could return to the rhetoric of his presidential campaign, which was derogatory toward Mexico.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me