On Wednesday, Mexico's Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray Caso answered a series of questions from the press relating to the implementation memos recently published by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
One question was of particular interest: "What will Mexico do specifically, in addition to appealing to international organizations, to prevent the United States from deporting non-Mexican citizens to Mexico? What will [the government] do to keep Central Americans from coming on deportation planes, for example?"
Minister Videgaray responded:
Mexico will not accept, and I said it this morning, Mexico will not accept unilateral measures from the United States or any other country. We have no obligation to accede to this type of measures and this will be one of the important topics of conversation, priority in the dialogue that we will have with the United States Secretary of Homeland Security that visits us in Mexico.
He was then asked, "But how? In what manner?"
The Mexican official answered, "If the United States government insists that it wants to deport to Mexico or that it wants to send people who are not of Mexican nationality to Mexico, Mexico does not have to receive them. At that moment we would begin a process of demanding that the United States, in each case, prove the nationality of the person that they are sending to Mexico.
It would frankly by a unilateral action, without precedent, unacceptable, that the United States itself would not accept. We do not have to accept it. We also have control of our borders and (inaudible) plentitude; it is a sovereign right of Mexico.
The action in question concerns the implementation of provisions of Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA to return aliens to contiguous countries. As the DHS memo outlines,
Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA authorizes the Department to return aliens arriving on land from a foreign territory contiguous to the United States, to the territory from which they arrived, pending the formal removal proceeding under section 240 of the INA.
This measure was largely ignored in the nine repatriation agreements signed between DHS and Mexico, last year under the Obama administration. In fact, these repatriation agreements only addressed the repatriation of Mexicans and included a provision stating, "Any person delivered through removal to the Mexican authorities found not to be a national of Mexico should be returned to the DHS Officers as soon as possible." It is standard procedure for Mexico's National Institute for Migration to certify the nationality of people who are repatriated by the United States, prior to them entering Mexican territory.
In comparison, the U.S. and Canada repatriation agreement obliges each government to take back third-country nationals who entered from the other's territory. So, when the Foreign Minister of Mexico claimed that such an action was "without precedent, unacceptable" and one the "United States itself would not accept," he was mistaken.
Ultimately, the implementation of this provision would do more than save the Department's detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens. It would also push Mexico to reconsider its own policies of allowing illegal aliens to traverse its territory, given that the pipeline into the United States would no longer be a remedy for lax enforcement at its southern border with Guatemala.