Mexico's future interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero denied reports that the transition team of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reached an agreement with the United States government to keep migrants south of the U.S. border while their asylum requests are being processed.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Sanchez Cordero confirmed that the future government of Lopez Obrador would comply with President Donald Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy. The news were reproduced by several media outlets, including teleSUR, but the declarations had already been denied.
"There's no agreement of any kind between the future federal government of Mexico and that of the United States of America," said Sanchez Cordero later Saturday. "We can't do any pact, any agreement because we're not the government, but there will be a much more fluent and intense space of collaboration and cooperation. It's not in the future government's plans to turn Mexico into a 'safe outsourced country' to assist Central American or other immigrants that are in the national territory or for those that come in the future."
The binational plan allegedly emerged last weekend during a meeting between Mexico’s future Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials.
But Sanchez Cordero denied that any agreement existed beyond the "willingness" to cooperate and declared that Mexico has been a "hospitable" country and will always remain as such.
"Migrants are not criminals, they're human beings with all their rights," she said.
According to the Washington Post's original report, Sanchez Cordero, a high profile member and Senator of the National Renewal Movement (Morena), called the plan a “short term solution,” and said the solution in the medium and long term would be to end the factors that make migration necessity.
“Mexico has its arms open and all that, but imagine one caravan after the other. That would also be a problem for us,” reportedly said Sanchez Cordero.
Such a plan would represent a whole new legal framework between both countries. No such agreement has been formally signed, but Lopez Obrador has spoken in favor of the migrants and declared his government is willing to provide shelter for them.
The latest press release states that the future government's priority is the respect for human rights of the Central American immigrants and to give local and federal authorities the responsibility to protect them.
"For the transition team of the president-elect the most important thing, regarding the Central American migrant caravans that have entered our territory is the protection of their human rights and provide aid to guarantee conditions for their nutrition, health and shelter," says the communique.
The current U.S. 'catch and release' policy allows for asylum seekers to remain in the U.S. while their applications are being processed, but Trump has repeatedly opposed the protocol. In the current circumstance of the Migrant Exodus caravan, U.S. and Mexico have already begun implementing the policy, with asylum-seekers and others staying south of the U.S. border while their applications are being processed. The agreement would simply formalize the de facto situation, two members of Lopez Obrador’s transition team supposedly told The Washington Post.
On Thursday, Pompeo revealed he and other U.S. officials had met with Ebrard to discuss migration and said both governments were working together to address “the current challenge.”
“The caravans will not be permitted to enter the United States,” he declared.
Defending the 'Remain in Mexico' plan, U.S. officials said such a system would increase their capabilities to process asylum petitions, as they wouldn’t be limited by their capacity to detain migrants at their ports of entry.
If the plan gets implement as announced by U.S. authorities, asylum seekers would receive a “credible fear screening” and, depending on the ruling of the judge, the applicant would remain in the U.S. until their initial appearance with an immigration judge, or be sent to Mexico. However, if the judge decides to deny the claim, the applicant would be detained and deported.
The officials are hoping to pilot the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy at the San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, where the caravans are arriving, before taking it to other ports of entry.
Lopez Obrador will take office on Dec. 1 but Morena, his political party, has already taken over both legislative houses, implementing a great part of his campaign promises. Speaking about Mexico’s own migration to the U.S., he has declared he wants Mexicans to stay in Mexico and for them to migrate because they want to, not out of necessity.