Mexico Calls for the U.S. to End Separation of Migrant Families

By Kausha Luna on June 20, 2018

The headlines have been consumed by U.S. detention policies as they relate to adults who cross the border with children. On Tuesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray held a press conference to address the topic.

The foreign minister opened his comments with the following:

I want to, in the name of the Mexican government, express our most categorical and energetic condemnation of a cruel and inhumane policy. Mexico recognizes and fully respects the sovereignty of the United States and its full faculty to decide its immigration policy. The government of Mexico, I want to be clear, at no time promotes illegal migration. However, according to our constitutional principles and our convictions, we cannot be indifferent to a situation that clearly represents a violation of human rights and that puts children in a vulnerable situation, in some cases even those with disabilities.

Videgaray went on to explain that upon the announcement of the "zero tolerance" policy, the Mexican consular network in the United States moved swiftly and visited detention centers and shelters with Mexican children who were separated from their families. According to Videgaray, of the 1,995 cases that have been reported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since the policy announcement in April, only 1 percent of these cases are related to children of Mexican nationality. The foreign minister confirmed these statistics are consistent with the cases identified by Mexico's consulate network, which identified 21 Mexican children who were separated from their parents as a result of the "zero tolerance" policy. Of those identified, the majority have been repatriated and only seven children remain in the shelters. Videgaray added that the overwhelming majority of children that have been separated from their parents come from the northern triangle countries of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador).

In addition to visiting the shelters, Mexico's consular network interviewed the children and identified family members in Mexico who have received them upon their return. The government is also working to identify family members in the United States to encourage family reunification.

As part of its diplomatic efforts, Mexico formally expressed its position to the United States. On Tuesday evening, Videgaray had phone conversations with DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Additionally, the Mexican embassy presented a note to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department Health and Human Services (HHS), and DHS. The note expressed its condemnation and rejection of the "zero tolerance" policy. The Mexican government also urged the United States to comply with certain recommendations. First, Mexico recommended that the American government have better coordination between different agencies (e.g. DHS and HHS). Second, it urged the United States to facilitate daily communication between children and parents. Mexico's foreign minister clarified that these practical recommendations are merely secondary to their primary call for the United States to end family separations at its southern border, regardless of their nationality.

Moreover, Videgaray called on the international community to express itself clearly on the separation of migrant families. He also appealed to international bodies, including those of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, to closely follow this "unacceptable" border situation.

Mexico is also in contact with Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Next Friday, the four governments will have a special meeting in Mexico to talk about this topic. Recognizing that the majority of the children are from Central America, Videgaray noted, "the Mexican government cannot remain indifferent ... we have a moral responsibility and also a constitutional [responsibility]."

To conclude, the Mexican foreign minister reiterated that the Mexican government is working to build a respectful, constructive, and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. Videgaray also added:

We fully respect the sovereignty and rule of law of the United States. The Mexican government, and I want it to be clear, does not promote illegality, illegal migration. However, I insist by conviction, and by constitutional and legal obligation that we cannot remain indifferent to an inhumane and cruel situation. ... We call on the government of the United States ... to reconsider this policy and give priority to the welfare and rights of these girls and boys, independent of their nationality or migratory situation.