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Top Mexican Diplomat Defends US-Mexico Collaboration To Control Flows Of Asylum-Seekers

Mexico's Ambassador to the U.S.,  Gerónimo Gutiérrez, discusses the United St...

Credit: PBS NewsHour

Above: Mexico's Ambassador to the U.S., Gerónimo Gutiérrez, discusses the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Oct. 2, 2018.

As President Trump demands that Mexico stop the latest migrant caravan, human rights defenders are raising concerns about the legality and morality of a U.S.-Mexico collaboration to control the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers.

The Mexican government receives tens of millions of U.S. dollars a year for law enforcement efforts, including border security. But Mexico's federal police and military have been found complicit in a number of crimes, including a massacre of 193 migrants in 2011 and a massacre of 43 students under the Enrique Peña Nieto administration.

Earlier this month, KPBS interviewed Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S., Gerónimo Gutiérrez, to discuss human rights concerns associated with its efforts to curb migration from Central America.

Q: Currently, Mexico helps the United States by detaining and deporting tens of thousands of Central Americans who are caught crossing the border illegally—

A: No, no—

Q: Well, with Plan Frontera Sur—

A: What I want to emphasize is what we do on migration policy we do it because it’s in a) our best interest or b) it is established in our own laws. So yes, there is an important number of nationals from Central America that enter irregularly.

Q: What about the argument that these are people who are fleeing violence, human rights attorneys who say that Mexico is actually breaking international refugee law on behalf of the United States by deporting these people back to Central America. What does Mexico say about that?

A: Well I would respectfully say that they’re wrong. And I think I would invite them to have a conversation with us about what is actually going on. If Mexico decides that it’s going to deport or repatriate Central American nationals because they enter our country without the appropriate documentation, that in a sense doesn’t have to do anything with the United States. I’m not sure if what these groups are advocating that we should just simply not uphold our own laws. Certainly, we must do that in a humane way with absolute respect for human rights in accordance with international law and that’s what we do. But every country has a right to enforce its own immigration laws.

Q: What about the fact that some of these people are fleeing violence, heading to the United States and the same criminal organizations that have power in Central America extend through Mexico?

A: Precisely because organized crime is international nowadays, we must work with countries like the United States and Central America as the United States must work with us and Central America and vice versa. We should really I think do a better job altogether in addressing human trafficking because there is clear evidence about how people, unfortunately, are tricked into human trafficking ... it’s also very risky for people to fall into the hands of human smugglers and traffickers and the sort of cooperation that we’re having is very much centered on that.

Q: And can you just, before we finish, answer me, will Mexico require asylum seekers from Central America to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than in the United States. Is that a possibility or is that something that you’re leaving to the next administration?

A: What we’re looking at right now is simply the fact that Mexico itself has recently encountered a significant increase in requests for in our case refuge, which is translated in asylum in the United States. The numbers have grown exponentially in the past three to four, five years. What we want to do is establish best practices from a regional perspective that first, we need to improve our capacity to address that phenomenon in Mexico irrespective of the United States. And at the same time I believe that we want to work with the United States to make sure that asylum systems anywhere are not abused.

Mexico's Ambassador to the U.S., Gerónimo Gutiérrez, responds to questions about the legality and morality of its collaboration with the U.S. to control flows of migrants and asylum-seekers from Central America.

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