With half of the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States being Mexicans, the proposals are hugely significant for Mexico.
“It has to be made clear in the most emphatic manner possible that the government and the people of Mexico are not required to accept provisions that one government wants to impose on another. We are not going to accept,” said Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray in the run-up to a critical visit from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security chief John Kelly on Thursday.
The Mexican government has been walking a political tightrope in its dealings with its powerful northern neighbor, with repeated missteps by embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto and his cabinet in the lead-up to Trump’s presidential victory forcing the Mexican administration to take a cautious approach, hoping for the situation to calm down.
The wall is only one part of a broader relationship we have with Mexico
US government source
But the tyrannical attitude of the new US president toward Mexico – and in particular his plans to build a wall along the border between the two countries, which he insists Mexico will pay for – has seen the Mexican government abandon its wait-and-see approach before the upcoming meeting with Tillerson and Kelly.
The strong words from the Mexican foreign minister were, however, in stark contrast to those of White House spokesperson Sean Spicer, who described the visit by the two US secretaries as “a very encouraging start to a working relationship with an incredible neighbor to the south.”
“I would argue that we have a very healthy and robust relationship with the Mexican government and Mexican officials, and I think they would echo that same sentiment,” Spicer said.
It is a sign of the importance that the Trump administration places on its relationship with Mexico that Thursday’s visit will be Kelly’s first overseas trip and Tillerson’s second. The Mexican administration has also pulled out all the stops for the visit with the two US secretaries set to meet not only with Videgaray but also with Peña Nieto and with the Mexican interior, finance and defense and navy ministers.
Details of the meeting’s agenda released by the US Department of State and the Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry are vague, with talks set to focus on “border security and cooperation in application of the law and trade.”
Both sides, however, have talked down the idea that the talks will focus on the wall.
“The wall is only one part of a broader relationship we have with Mexico,” sources within the US government said, while admitting there were “clear differences over the question of payment.”
English version by George Mills.