Pompeo Welcomes Mexico-UN Plan to Deal With Migrant ‘Caravan’ at Mexico’s Southern Border

By Patrick Goodenough | October 19, 2018 | 4:21am EDT
Guatemalan national police search migrants at a highway checkpoint en route to the border with Mexico on October 18, 2018. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday night welcomed Mexico’s request for the U.N. refugee agency to help Mexican authorities deal with the “caravan” of some 4,000 Central American migrants trying to transit Mexico en route to the United States.

In response to a plan to set up migrant processing centers along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, Pompeo, who was in Panama ahead of a visit to Mexico on Friday, said the U.S. was ready to help Mexico and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the effort.

Earlier in the day, President Trump had urged Mexico in several tweets to “stop this onslaught,” warning that failure to do so would prompt him to deploy the U.S. military to close the U.S.-Mexico border.

Then early evening, Trump linked to a video clip showing Mexican federal police arriving near the Mexico-Guatemala border, and tweeted, “Thank you Mexico, we look forward to working with you!”

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday afternoon and asked for UNHCR help in dealing with the thousands of Hondurans and others who have made their way through Guatemala on their northward journey.

There was no public statement from the U.N. on the matter, but Mexico’s foreign ministry did issue one.

“The purpose of this measure is to contribute to a humanitarian solution, in accordance with the legal framework, respectful of human rights, transparent, and with the assistance of the international community, through the corresponding bodies of the U.N.,” it said.

The ministry said the plan also aimed to help protect migrants, especially women, children and the elderly, and to prevent them from being deceived by international criminal and trafficking gangs.

Migrants in the caravan arriving at Mexico’s border “who enter the country irregularly” will be processed and returned to their country of origin. The ministry pointed out that Mexican legislation does not allow for migrants to be allowed entry for travel to a neighboring country if they do not meet the requirements for transit to that country.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray meets with U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres in New York on Thursday, October 18, 2018. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Any migrant who wishes to apply for asylum in Mexico may do so, as individuals, in line with current legislation and international law, the ministry said.

Mexico was committed to safe, orderly and regular migration, it said, and believed that dialogue and cooperation between migrants’ countries of origin, transit and destination “are indispensable to face the challenges implied by the migratory phenomenon.”

Mexican officials are explaining the options to participants in the caravan who have arrived at the border.

Separately, Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala met in Guatemala City with caravan participants to relay the same message.

The ministry said Ambassador Luis Manuel López Moreno made clear that no transit visa exists for those wishing to cross Mexico to reach the Mexico-U.S. border.

The UNHCR has a liaison office in Tapachula, a city on the Mexico-Guatemala border near the Suchiate River, a popular crossing point for Central American migrants heading north. A second liaison office is located further along the border, at Tenosique.

According to UNHCR data, 4,272 Hondurans, 3,708 Salvadorans and 676 Guatemalans applied for asylum in Mexico in 2017. Of the Hondurans, 770 claims were recognized and 767 rejected; 966 of those from El Salvador were recognized and 543 rejected; and of the Guatemalans, 123 were recognized and 116 rejected. Others were pending at year’s end.

The U.S. admitted as refugees 833 Salvadorans, 51 Hondurans and 34 Guatemalans in calendar year 2017, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

On Friday Pompeo is due to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto and Videgaray, as well as the man designated to be foreign secretary in the incoming administration of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

On the agenda will be “economic issues, shared security challenges, and reducing illegal immigration,” the State Department said.

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