Mexico to advance regional asylum agreement if Trump migration deal fails

Mexico to advance regional asylum agreement if Trump migration deal fails
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Mexico’s top diplomat said Monday his country would consider entering a regional asylum agreement if the deal brokered last week with the Trump administration fails to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said his government rejected a so-called safe third country agreement during talks last week, but added both sides agreed to revisit a similar measure over the coming weeks. Under such a policy, migrants entering Mexico would be required to apply for asylum there rather than the U.S.

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“The government of the United States came to the meeting where the vice president was present saying the only way there wouldn't be tariffs today was that Mexico accept and sign over the weekend an agreement to be the first country of asylum,” Ebrard said at a press conference days after Mexico reached a last-minute deal to avert tariffs Trump threatened over the surge of Central Americans crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“That’s what happened in the meeting with the vice president, which was very harsh. Harsh not in the sense that they were rude, but in the sense that their tone was almost an ultimatum. Well, without the ‘almost,’ ” said Ebrard.

“After very intense negotiations we arrived at two measures, one of our own and one of theirs. And we agreed on a timetable to do things and see who's right,” he added.

The two measures are an accelerated deployment of the Mexican National Guard to the country's southern border and an unprecedented expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols, a program under which Central Americans requesting asylum in the United States wait out their court cases in Mexico.

Ebrard spoke after Trump renewed his threat to impose sweeping tariffs if the Mexican government did not uphold a secret provision of the agreement that requires approval by the Mexican legislature.

“We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!” the president tweeted.

Ebrard said the mysterious, unnamed issue was a potential asylum pact including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as well as other entities like Brazil and Panama and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. Under such an agreement, countries throughout the region would agree on large-scale measures to combat migration from Central America, but also from the Caribbean and other regions worldwide.

Ebrard clarified that such an agreement would require approval from the Mexican Senate.

“We told them, and I think this was the most important achievement of the negotiation, let's have a timetable to see if Mexico is right in what it's proposing today, and if not we'll sit down to see the additional measures you propose and others we may think of,” said Ebrard.

Still, Trump's tweet exposed an apparent disconnect between the two parties on the issue of linking tariffs to migration.

"What was achieved in this negotiation? In the first place, that the two issues be separated again," said Ebrard. "We succeeded in putting the migratory issue on one table and commerce and tariffs on another."

Trump has spent the last several days lashing out at The New York Times for reporting that the central tenets of his agreement with Mexico were months in the making.

Without mentioning specific outlets, Ebrard also lashed out at the press, saying some outlets had misreported the outlines of the agreement.

The president said later Monday during an impromptu telephone interview with CNBC that the secret concession from Mexico would add “another very powerful tool in addition to the very powerful tools we got.”

“Well, I’m going to tell you that most people understand that the people having to do with borders and illegal immigration and immigration of any kind, they understand exactly what that is,” Trump said. “But we purposely said we wouldn’t mention it for a little while. It’s going to be brought up because it has to be brought by their legislative body. It’s got to be taken to a vote. So we didn’t bring it up, but most people know that answer.”