Trump confirms ‘safe third country’ plan in Mexico deal - GulfToday

Trump confirms ‘safe third country’ plan in Mexico deal

Trump

Donald Trump. File

Mexico has not accepted that the United States send it an unlimited number of asylum seekers, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said, ahead of meetings with US officials on Friday to determine the expansion of a controversial programme.

Under pressure from US President Donald Trump, Mexico agreed last week to expand the programme, which forces mostly Central American asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await the outcome of their US asylum claims.

Ebrard said officials would discuss which cities the programme, known as Remain in Mexico, would expand to, as well as how to measure the number of people and which nationalities Mexico would accept.

“Today there is a meeting with US authorities, to learn, to discuss the ports of entry and how the number will be measured, because Mexico has not accepted that it be undetermined,” he said in a news conference.

Currently the programme operates in Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. Close to 12,000 people have been returned to Mexico since January.

In the deal reached a week ago, Mexico also agreed to a plan that could make it a “safe third country” in which asylum seekers would have to seek refuge instead of in the United States, if Mexico does not bring down immigration flows by mid-July through enforcement measures.

Trump on Friday confirmed that the deal struck in return for not imposing threatened tariffs on Mexico included a plan to establish a “safe third country” agreement.

Asked in a Fox News interview if the plan included that option if Mexico cannot stem the flow of Central American migrants headed for the United States, Trump said “It’s exactly right, and that’s what’s going to happen.” Trump also named Tom Homan as “Border Czar.”

Homan is a veteran of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and served as the agency’s acting head during the first year of Trump’s presidency. He retired last year, after increasing arrests of non-criminal immigrants.

Meanwhile, Central American migrants eager to beat a crackdown by Mexico on its southern border with Guatemala scrambled into the country on Thursday as the government prepared to send thousands of National Guard members to plug gaps in the porous frontier.

Ebrard said this week that Mexico would beef up control of its southern border, including sending 6,000 members of the National Guard.

The deployment was due to begin on Wednesday though witnesses saw no signs of the deployment.

As dawn broke on Thursday, a family of Honduran migrants floated across a narrow crossing of the Suchiate River from Guatemala on a raft and staggered onto Mexican soil.

“They told us that they were deploying the National Guard,” said Melvin Ochoa, 28, carrying his 20-month-old daughter. Beside him was his heavily pregnant wife. “It made us hurry. I’m pushing to continue faster so they won’t catch us.”

The trip was especially risky for Ochoa’s wife who was only one month shy of giving birth. She declined to give her name.

“But the risks at home were worse,” Ochoa said, explaining that the family had fled loan sharks affiliated with a criminal gang who demanded money even after they had paid them back.

“If not, they were going to kill us.”

Behind them, the steady daily traffic of the river continued unabated, with no Mexican official in sight.

Migration officials remained in the shadow of immigration posts on a bridge linking the two countries.

Improvised rafts made of planks of wood floating on giant inner-tubes carried black-market Corona beer, coffee and other contraband toward Guatemala. Half a dozen more floated toward Mexico crowded with Central Americans fleeing gang violence and poverty.

It was business at usual too at immigration checkpoints along the highway north.

“We haven’t seen any increase,” said a police officer at a checkpoint, when asked about any build-up in security forces.

He asked not to be identified because he lacked permission to speak to the press.

“We have no plan. Only to go forward, as far as God permits,” said Antonio Hernandez, 29, stepping off another raft at dawn with his wife and 2-year-old son. Anxious and exhausted from days of travel since they fled El Salvador, they hustled on.

Agencies