State, Homeland Security Secretaries Seek To Appease Tensions With Mexican Counterparts

February 24, 2017
Secretaría de Gobernación de México
From left: U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, State Secretary Rex Tillerson, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray and Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong during Kelly and Tillerson’s first official visit to Mexico

The U.S. Secretaries of State and Homeland Security met with their Mexican counterparts during their first visit to that country on Thursday, seeking commonalities in what has become a tense relationship.

The strain was palpable. In a speech at the Mexican Foreign Relations Office, Secretary Luis Videgaray did not appear entirely happy.

"We talked about how it’s legally impossible for one government to unilaterally make decisions that affect another," Videgaray said.

Secretary of Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong stood more bluntly against recent proposals from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“We’ve shared our concerns about an eventual increase in deportations and the possibility that citizens from other countries will be returned to our territory while their cases are being processed,” Osorio Chong said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly tried to assuage those fears, even though he contradicted President Trump, who earlier in the day described border efforts as a military operation.

“There will be no, repeat, no mass deportations,” Kelly said. “Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights and the legal system of the United States.”

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the secretaries did find common ground, but still: "In our meetings, we jointly acknowledged that in a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries, from time to time will have differences," Tillerson said.

Erik Lee, director of the Phoenix and San Diego-based North American Research Partnership, said this is the worst point in bilateral relations in decades.

“There is absolutely no way that this wasn’t a very, very difficult meeting,” Lee said. “There’s really no papering over the fact that the U.S.-Mexico relationship is really in the twilight zone.”