U.S., Mexican officials to discuss asylum pact
President Donald Trump has criticized Mexico for not doing enough to stop the flow of Central American migrants toward the U.S. — but an asylum deal under discussion this week could change that.
Officials from the Trump administration and the Mexican government will meet Thursday and Friday to discuss a possible “safe third country” agreement, according to two sources, one from the Homeland Security Department and one from the Mexican government.
Under such a pact, migrants would be required to seek asylum in Mexico if they passed through that country en route to the U.S. The U.S. and Canada inked a similar deal in 2002.
Reaching a safe third country agreement with Mexico won’t be easy, given the Mexican government’s profound irritation with President Trump, who has attacked Mexico (and Mexicans) repeatedly and still insists that Mexico ought to pay for a wall along the southwest U.S. border. In addition, Mexico’s forthcoming July 1 presidential election has made President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ruling party wary of seeming too accommodating to the U.S. (Peña Nieto is not himself running.)
But if cemented, a U.S.-Mexico safe third country pact could slash the flow of migrants to the southwest border — all without any need to secure congressional approval. “It would be a huge deal,” one DHS official told POLITICO. “It’s definitely a real priority.”
The topic surfaced during meetings in recent months between the U.S. and Mexico, according to three U.S. and Mexican officials. According to these officials, the impending presidential election, which previously discouraged agreement, now may encourage it because opposition leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the front-runner. López Obrado has lambasted Peña Nieto’s government for excessive conciliation with the U.S., prompting many officials in both countries to see July 1 less as a deterrent and more as a deadline.
The Trump administration considers an asylum pact a priority, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen cited it at a Senate subcommittee hearing earlier this month. But Mexican officials have been cagier.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray — interviewed by POLITICO in late April as he departed a meeting with Nielsen — said a possible asylum deal was “not in the cards for now.”
A DHS spokeswoman declined to comment.
A major question, which experts and officials from both countries struggle to answer, is what Mexico stands to gain from an agreement that could force it to accept thousands of additional migrants each year.
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