AMLO Draws the Line at Trump’s Push for Asylum Deal on Migrants
(Bloomberg) -- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who’s been trying hard to accommodate his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on issues from trade to illegal migration, said he’ll draw the line when it comes to demands for his country to process claims by asylum seekers.
In his first interview with international media since taking office last year, Lopez Obrador said he wouldn’t agree to a so-called safe-third-country accord like the one Guatemala reached with the Trump administration last week. Such a deal would mean that Central American migrants claiming refugee status would be required to apply for asylum in Mexico, rather than wait until they reach the U.S.
“We can’t commit to that,” Lopez Obrador said. “We’re applying a program of cautiously reducing the number of immigrants who enter, being mindful of the human rights of migrants.”
In a 50-minute conversation with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait, Mexico’s president -- known as AMLO -- set out his views on topics from immigration to the economy.
He referred to Trump as an ally who’s significantly moderated his tone, after earlier attacks against Mexican immigrants.
Last month, the Trump administration urged Mexico to change its laws on asylum. And on Friday, Trump announced a deal with Guatemala to stop migrants from other parts of Central America from claiming asylum in the U.S., and instead force them to file claims locally first.
Rights groups have questioned whether Guatemala is capable of handling the process -- and whether it’s a safe place for refugees.
Trump is seeking to crack down on migrants, mostly from Central American countries, entering the U.S. across the border with Mexico -- and turn the issue into a campaign theme in next year’s presidential election.
He warned at the end of May that he’d slap a 5% tariff on all imports from Mexico, and then steadily ratchet it up until AMLO’s government took effective action to stop the flow of people.
The threat was withdrawn after Mexico agreed on a series of measures, including deployment of 21,000 national guard troops to the border -- a move applauded by Trump. Detentions by authorities on the U.S. side dropped to less than 95,000 in June, from a figure of about 130,000 in May that was the highest since at least 2011.
Still, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Mexico needs to do more to deter illegal crossings.
Lopez Obrador said in the interview that that he’d planned to deploy the National Guard even before Trump’s tariff threat. He saw those threats as part of an “electoral process.” He said the way to reduce undocumented migration is to advance economic development in Central America.
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