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Mexicans weigh the daunting prospect of deportee camps

March 05, 2017

  • Un agente de Inmigración y Aduanas de EEUU observa la carretera en San Diego, California. El gobierno de Trump está volviendo a escribir las prioridades para el cumplimiento de la oficina de Immigración y Aduanas, ampliando en gran medida el número de inmigrantes indocumentados que son prioridad para la deportación.
    An agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau watches the highway in San Diego, California. The Trump administration is wholesale rewriting the U.S. immigration enforcement priorities, broadly expanding the number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who are priorities for deportation,

(AP) — The Mexican government made clear to visiting U.S. emissaries that it will not accept deportees from third countries under any circumstances, the interior secretary said.

Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said in an interview with Radio Formula that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asked Mexican officials during their visit if they would host deportees from other countries while their immigration cases are processed in the U.S.

“They can’t leave them here on the border because we have to reject them. There is no chance they would be received by Mexico,” he said.

“They asked us that while their legal process is happening there if they could be here,” Osorio Chong said. “And we told them that there’s no way we can have them here during that process.”

The visit by the U.S. secretaries came at a tense moment in U.S.-Mexico relations. President Donald Trump has carried his tough campaign talk about immigrants and factory jobs that moved to Mexico into the White House, ordering the building of a border wall, stepped up deportations and a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Department of Homeland Security announced new deportation guidelines saying that U.S. immigration officials could deport immigrants in the country illegally to the contiguous country they had entered from, which in the vast majority of cases would be Mexico. Most of the immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years have been Central Americans.

Osorio Chong also said that if the U.S. government tries to pressure Mexico by threatening to withdraw funding from the nearly $2.5 billion Merida Initiative to fight organized crime, Mexico will let that money go.

The initiative that was started in 2008 is winding down with most remaining funding going to Mexican states implementing reforms to the justice system, Osorio Chong said. In its early years, Merida outfitted Mexico’s military with helicopters and trained its security forces.

“If that resource could be an issue for pressure or if they want to pressure the government, honestly, we have no problem, none, if they withdraw it,” he said.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mexicans fear deportee and refugee camps could be popping up along their northern border under the Trump administration’s plan.

Previous U.S. policy called for only Mexican citizens to be sent to Mexico. Migrants known as “OTMs” - Other Than Mexicans - got flown back to their homelands.

Now, under a sweeping rewrite of U.S. enforcement policies migrants might be dumped over the border into a violence-plagued land where they have no ties while their asylum claims or deportation proceedings are heard in the United States. U.S. officials didn’t say what Mexico would be expected to do with them.

The only consensus so far in Mexico about the new policies of President Donald Trump is that the country isn’t remotely prepared.

“Not in any way, shape or form,” said the Rev. Patrick Murphy, a priest who runs the Casa del Migrante shelter in the border city of Tijuana, which currently houses about 55 Haitian immigrants. They were part of wave of thousands who swarmed to the border in the closing months of the Obama administration in hopes of getting asylum in the U.S.

Tijuana was overwhelmed, and while the government did little, a string of private Christian groups pitched in to open shelters with improvised bedding, tents and sanitary facilities. Donated food kept the Haitians going.

Mexicans quake at the thought of handling not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of foreigners in a border region already struggling with drug gangs and violence.

“Just look at the case of the Haitians in Tijuana, what were they, seven or eight thousand? And the situation was just out of control,” said Alejandro Hope, a Mexico City-based security analyst. “Now imagine a situation 10 or 15 times that size. There aren’t enough resources to maintain them.”

It’s unclear whether the United States has the authority to force Mexico to accept third-country nationals.

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