An asylum deal between the United States and Mexico reportedly under discussion Thursday and Friday could drastically reduce the number of Central American migrants that make it to the U.S. border.
According to Politico, which interviewed a source from both the United States and Mexico, officials from both countries will meet today and tomorrow to discuss a “safe third country agreement” that would require migrants from Central America to ask for asylum in Mexico before reaching the U.S. border.
Politico’s Ted Hesson writes:
The talks will cover “technical and legal” aspects of a safe third country agreement, according to two related documents reviewed by POLITICO.
Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez is slated to attend the confab, which will take place at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services headquarters on Massachusetts Avenue, according to a DHS official. Videgaray will remain in Mexico City, but he’ll still have two top emissaries in attendance: Narciso Campos, his chief of staff, and José Luis Stein, deputy secretary of the interior.
The expected participants from the U.S. side include, tentatively, James McCament, the acting head of the DHS policy office; Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. John Creamer, a top State Department official for Mexico, Central America and Cuba, could also join the meetings.
If signed, the deal would reportedly be similar to one the United States has had with Canada since 2002.
While Politico says inking such an agreement “won’t be easy” because of tension between Mexico and the Trump administration, the report also acknowledged that the potential deal “could slash the flow of migrants to the southwest border – all without any need to secure congressional approval.”
“It would be a huge deal,” said a DHS official to Politico. “It’s definitely a real priority.”
While obtaining such a deal with Mexico is a priority for the U.S., getting Mexico to sign on will be more difficult. However, the fact that leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a critic of working with the Trump administration, is the front-runner in the upcoming July 1 Mexican presidential election against President Peña Nieto’s party has prompted “many officials in both countries to see July 1 less as a deterrent and more as a deadline,” according to Politico.
What’s in it for Mexico? While the agreement would potentially force Mexico to accept more migrants, it could also give the country leverage in NAFTA negotiations.