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Ambassador: Mexico Will Take Mexican Deportees, But Not Others

Carlos Sada, Mexico's ambassador to the United States, speaks during a session of the National Immigration Integration Conference on Dec. 12, 2016, in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

WASHINGTON – In an exclusive interview, Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos M. Sada said the Mexican government would take back Mexicans who are deported from the United States but emphasized that the Mexican government would refuse to reimburse the U.S. for the construction of a border wall.

In his first televised interview as president last month, President Trump told ABC that immediate construction of the border wall would first be funded by taxpayers “and we will be, in a form, reimbursed by Mexico.”

“I’m just telling you there will be a payment,” Trump said, vowing “100 percent” reimbursement from Mexico. “It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form.”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said last month in a televised address, “I’ve said time and again: Mexico won’t pay for any wall. I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us.”

The Trump administration’s draft deportation guidelines prioritize undocumented immigrants with criminal records for removal from the interior of the United States.

PJM asked the ambassador if the Mexican government would accept all deportations of migrants who have committed crimes while living illegally in the country.

“As long as they are Mexicans, yes. As long as they are not Mexicans, no,” the ambassador said after his meetings at the National Governors Association winter meeting.

Sada was likely referring to part of a draft document with new potential guidelines that would allow U.S. authorities to send asylum seekers “to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived, pending the outcome of removal proceedings,” meaning non-Mexicans could be sent to Mexico.

Mexico’s consul general in San Diego indicated shortly after Trump’s election that the country was preparing for deportations under the new president. “We are prepared – our consular network in the United States – to protect the Mexicans and their human rights,” Marcela Celorio said. “And also, in Mexico, we are prepared to take them back.”

Trump promised in his Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress to “soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.” PJM asked Sada if Mexico would eventually reimburse the U.S. for the border wall if the federal government initially pays for its construction.

“Well, it has already been said really clearly and loud Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, so we are working in different scenarios – but that is one issue Mexico is not taking into consideration at all,” the ambassador responded.

Sada was also asked for his opinion of a possible border adjustment tax on imports from Mexico as a way to pay for the wall.

“Well, actually, so far there is nothing official, it is just comments. But let me tell you that the relationship between Mexico and the United States is unique in the world. The trade that exists between our two nations is just second to Canada, worldwide, so we are the second-largest country that exports of the United States goes to, so that is fundamental in order to analyze and put in good perspective what is happening between the two nations,” the ambassador said.

“The private sector of both countries and also the politicians and the officials are already starting to figure out how these negotiations are going to be in the sense that it has to be a win-win situation, and if you are Canada it has to be win-win situation.”

Sada said the U.S. and Mexico “are not competing against each other.”

“We are competing against other blocs, other markets, and in order to be as efficient as possible we need to have that conceptual think of how to do it,” he said.

The Trump administration is planning to hire 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

Sada was asked if Mexico has similar security on their side of the border to address threats and collaborate with U.S. authorities.

“We have a group that is called [Grupos] Beta – it is for helping humanitarian causes,” the ambassador said, referring to the program within the Mexican government’s National Institute of Migration that does search-and-rescue for people trying to cross the desert near the U.S. border, provides water stations and will transport them back to their homes in Mexico. “So what we do is to try to make that people is having a good human rights and there is no violation of civil rights or human rights, so that is what they are focusing on. But also, while you are have your own system for accepting or not people from all over the world, but the cooperation in Mexico is fundamental.”

“Now immigration from Mexico is dropping, and dropping year by year, and you take this statistic of immigration of last year and previous years – it is just one-fourth of the 100 percent that come to the United States coming from Mexico, so we are working together in order to find a solution of immigrants coming from Central America, for instance, from the third countries,” he added.

Sada said drug trafficking is “a common threat” and a “common enemy” of the U.S. and Mexican governments.

“There is drug trafficking to the United States and, of course, weapons going south to Mexico and bulk cash going to Mexico,” he said. “These are the issues that we keep discussing because it’s a collaboration that has been there for long, for so many generations, and we need to enhance it, we need to improve it. We need to strengthen these relationships between Mexico and the U.S.”

The ambassador confirmed that Peña Nieto is not going to meet with Trump soon, but he foresees the two leaders meeting in the future.

“Not this time, no – well, actually, when time is there I’m sure that the two presidents are going to meet. In the meantime, we are very glad that the secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson, and Mr. Kelly [secretary of Homeland Security], they went to Mexico as the first visit of two secretaries to another country,” he said.

“Well, Mr. Kelly went to Guatemala just a couple of hours before going to Mexico, but it’s a very positive message and what we are building and sending as a message is that Mexico is a friend, Mexico is a neighbor and that Mexico is a very good and reliable partner.”