WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are headed south of the border tomorrow, just after a group of lawmakers headed to Mexico over Presidents Day weekend to “better understand key issues from the Mexican perspective.”
Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today that Tillerson and Kelly will be in Mexico on Wednesday and Thursday, and will meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto as well as the Mexican ministers of Interior, Foreign Relations, Finance, National Defense, and Navy.
“The group will discuss border security, law enforcement cooperation, and trade, among other issues,” Toner said. Tillerson will also visit staff at the U.S. Embassy.
Peña Nieto canceled his planned trip to the United States last month after Trump issued his executive order on construction of the border wall.
Kelly will stop first in Guatemala on Wednesday to meet with President Jimmy Morales and the ministers of Government and Foreign Affairs, according to DHS, as well as observe a deportation flight from the U.S. arriving at the Guatemalan Repatriation and Reception Facility in Guatemala City.
Kelly issued two implementation memos on President Trump’s immigration executive orders Monday, stressing that “with extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement.”
“All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” the department said in a fact sheet. “…U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will release aliens from custody only under limited circumstances, such as when removing them from the country, when an alien obtains an order granting relief by statute, when it is determined that the alien is a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, refugee, or asylee, or that the alien holds another protected status, when an arriving alien has been found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture and the alien satisfactorily establishes his identity and that he is not a security or flight risk, or when otherwise required to do so by statute or order by a competent judicial or administrative authority.”
Three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) — wrapped up Sunday a trip to meet with members of the Mexican cabinet, Senate, and civil society.
“We know that damage has been done to the bilateral relationship in the last few months,” Cardin said. “Our meetings and conversations helped us better understand key issues from the Mexican perspective, and gave us the opportunity to reaffirm our priorities and expectations.”
“I’m confident the strength of our partnership and friendship with Mexico is dynamic enough to withstand 140-character broadsides or unrealistic demands,” he added.
The trio took a Border Patrol-guided tour of the Mexican border on their way back, including the international border conflux of Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico, an immigrant processing facility, and one of the vehicle and pedestrian ports of entry.
“Our strategy on the border should be designed to address our security and stop the flow of illegal drugs. President Trump’s unilateral focus on the wall is poorly conceived,” Merkley said. “The thousands of border officials working day and night to protect our nation know what works and what doesn’t. We should listen to them.”
Markey argued that “the real fear for American families is not what’s happening on the streets of Aleppo, it is the heroin and fentanyl” coming across the border “that are tearing communities apart.”