Mexico’s chief diplomat on Monday urged Congress to pass a bill that would give permanent legal status to illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Mexican Foreign Minster Luis Videgaray said his government hopes American lawmakers will reach an agreement on amnesty for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration intends to wind down by March 5.
“We strongly hope the U.S. Congress will act promptly to provide certainty and a permanent solution to these young people that want to stay in America,” he told reporters in Sacramento before meeting with about 25 DACA recipients, according to the Associated Press.
Videgaray was in California to meet with Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers in the state’s Latino Caucus about immigration issues. On the same day as the visit, Brown and California Democrats announced they had reached an agreement on a sanctuary state bill that limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.
California is likely to be instrumental in any agreement on the future of DACA recipients that comes out of Congress. Most of the state’s enormous Congressional delegation, including influential Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, is pushing for a standalone bill to provide permanent legal status for Dreamers.
The DACA issue is especially salient in California, which is home to more Dreamers than any other state by a wide margin. California has nearly 223,000 DACA recipients — 28 percent of the entire program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services figures. Texas, the second largest DACA state, has about 124,000 Dreamers.
Nearly 80 percent of all DACA recipients are originally from Mexico.
Videgaray will highlight those demographics when he meets with Hispanic-American activists and community leaders in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Following his California stops, the foreign minister will travel to Washington to lobby Congress on passing protections for Dreamers, according to the Mexican Foreign Ministry.
Videgaray’s trip comes during a period of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Mexico. In addition to differences over the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, Washington and Mexico are locked in contentious negotiations over a revision to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The first two rounds of talks concluded without much progress, but Videgaray remains hopeful that U.S., Mexican and Canadian trade negotiators will find common ground during the next meeting scheduled for Sept. 23 in Ottawa, Canada.
“We’re looking forward to having a better NAFTA that represents a win-win for the three countries, and we believe that this process is going to be quite relevant for California,” he said, referring to the close economic ties between California and Mexico.
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