News & Politics

New Mexican Government Denies Making Deal to Host Asylum-Seekers

(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Yesterday, we covered a report in the Washington Post about a reported agreement reached between the incoming government of Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Trump administration to have Mexico keep asylum-seekers on their side of the border until their cases are processed by U.S. immigration officials.

But today, those same Mexican officials are denying a deal has been completed.

The policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” was formulated by the Trump administration to deal with the thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. in the caravan. The goal was to keep the immigrants out of the U.S. in order to prevent them from dispersing at the border while officials considered their requests.

Today, the same senior advisor to Lopez Obrador who acknowledged an agreement yesterday denied a deal has been reached.

Associated Press:

“There is no agreement of any sort between the incoming Mexican government and the U.S. government,” future Interior Minister Olga Sanchez said in a statement.

Hours earlier, The Washington Post quoted her as saying that the incoming administration of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had agreed to allow migrants to stay in Mexico as a “short-term solution” while the U.S. considered their applications for asylum. Lopez Obrador will take office on Dec. 1.

The statement shared with The Associated Press said the future government’s principal concern related to the migrants is their well-being while in Mexico.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has won support from the Mexican president-elect’s team for a plan dubbed “Remain in Mexico.”

The newspaper also quoted Sanchez as saying: “For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico.”

Sanchez did not explain in the statement why The Washington Post had quoted her as saying there had been agreement.

Mexico doesn’t want the migrants any more than the U.S. does. If they agreed to the “Remain in Mexico” policy, those caravan members — and almost certainly many thousands more who are on their way to the U.S. — would have to be cared for in Mexico while they await the outcome of their asylum requests.

That might take years:

Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin, described the Remain in Mexico plan as a strategy to take away the ability of migrants to live and work in the U.S. while cases are processed. “The hope is that asylum seekers will not want to live in (Mexico) for months/years and won’t come,” Leutert said via Twitter.

U.S. officials have said for months that they were working with Mexico to find solutions for what they have called a border crisis. One variation, called “Safe Third,” would have denied asylum claims on the grounds that asylum seekers had found haven in Mexico. President Enrique Pena Nieto offered thousands of Central Americans asylum on Oct. 26 if they agreed to remain in southern Mexico. Close to 3,000 migrants took Mexico up on the offer.

Sanchez said Saturday that the next government does not plan for Mexico to become a “Safe Third” country.

It’s possible that the U.S. jumped the gun and leaked the outline of the deal before some of the particulars had been negotiated. It’s also possible that Lopez Obrador floated a trial balloon to see the domestic reaction to the plan.

Whatever the situation, it doesn’t appear likely that Mexico will agree to host thousands of migrants waiting for entry into the U.S. indefinitely. This puts the ball back in the migrants’ court. Will they storm the U.S. border as some of them have promised to do?

That would be a disastrous outcome. The best solution is for the migrants to go home, something that Mexico may very well facilitate.