Mexican Officials Meet With Tillerson, Kelly

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly arrived in Mexico City on February 22 for a two-day visit with various Mexican officials including President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The highlight of the visit was a joint press conference with Secretary of Foreign Relations Luis Videgaray and Secretary of the Interior Miguel Osorio Chong, which marked the “frayed relationship between the two nations,” according to the New York Times. President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and a border wall loom over the collective Mexican psyche.

Ahead of Tillerson’s visit, Videgaray assured the Mexican media that President Trump’s executive order targeting Mexican and Central American immigrants is “something that, without doubt, worries all of us Mexicans.” He made a point to announce that Mexico’s worries would be addressed as “the first point on the agenda” while meeting with Secretaries Tillerson and Kerry.

The joint press conference was given on February 23 at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City and preceded a meeting between President Peña Nieto and Tillerson that was closed to the press.

At the press conference, Secretary Videgaray spoke regarding the state of migration in North and Central America. He stated that “the Mexican and U.S. governments have agreed that we must assume the shared responsibility focused not only on migratory control, but also on the true causes of the migratory phenomenon, such as the development and stability of these nations.”

During his own address, Tillerson stated, “There is no mistaking that the rule of law matters along both sides of our border. We recognize the existing U.S.-Mexican cooperation to curtail irregular migration both by securing Mexico’s southern border and by supporting efforts of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador through the Alliance for Prosperity to reduce violence and stimulate economic opportunity in the region. On this issue we discussed the importance of fair treatment of all of those in this transit.”

Secretary of the Interior Osorio Chong spoke to the need for cooperation and coordination between the U.S. and Mexican governments in addressing the security and migratory concerns of both countries.

The somewhat tense dialogue ultimately alluded to the growing distrust between the two North American nations. NPR interviewed Mexican economist Antonio Ortiz-Mena, who said the visit was “awkward but also necessary” to maintain as strong a relationship as possible between Mexico and the United States.

Evidently, this has been difficult ever since the U.S. presidential elections when Trump was solidifying his campaign promises of stricter immigration policies. Now, Mexico’s government has shown a more serious stance against Trump’s policies.

In January, Peña Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump, marking perhaps his harshest political move against the American president’s policies and rhetoric. Tillerson’s visit was in general met with opposition from Mexican civil society, as American and Mexican citizens gathered in protest on February 24 at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Overall, American and Mexican media have reported Videgaray’s words regarding Trump’s harsh policies as being more effective than the political image that Peña Nieto has painted, which, to many Mexicans, seems weak.

Looking ahead to relations between Mexico and the United States, recent increased mass deportations in the United States have shown to be the Mexican government’s newest worry. Mexico’s immigration system is more saturated than that of the United States since the nation became a transit country due to increased violence in Central America. Increased deportations from the United States could aggravate the situation for Mexico. Petitions for asylum in Mexico have grown 1,000 percent in the past six years. Last year, almost 9,000 asylum petitions were submitted.

For now it seems as though the U.S. government has much work to do if it hopes to keep its valuable partnership with Mexico. According to El País, Videgaray stated that ultimately, “to overcome grievances, what will matter are the acts [of the United States].”