Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs today condemned the United States’ policy of separating migrant children from their parents at its southern border, describing the practice as “cruel and inhumane.”
Luis Videgaray told a press conference this morning that “on behalf of the government and the people of Mexico, I want to express our most categorical condemnation of a cruel and inhumane policy.”
The foreign secretary said 21 Mexican minors had been affected by it and at least seven children remain separated from their parents, but he rejected any suggestion that the federal government had been indifferent to their plight.
“We acted immediately from the moment the zero-tolerance policy was announced . . . Our consulates acted quickly by visiting detention centers as well as [migrant] shelters, where they have identified cases of Mexican children who have been separated from their parents,” Videgaray said.
“Of the 1,995 cases that have been reported by the [United States] Department of Homeland Security [between April 19 and May 31] . . . 1% of the cases are of Mexican children. That figure is consistent with the cases that our consulates have identified. Our consular network has identified a total of 21 cases, of which the majority have been repatriated to Mexico . . .” he said.
Videgaray said Mexico has already taken diplomatic actions aimed at putting an end to the zero-tolerance policy, which was announced by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions on May 7.
Sessions said the goal of the policy was to prosecute 100% of all adults who enter the U.S. illegally and send them immediately to a federal court, leaving their children in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Sessions said “if you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” adding that “if you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over the border.”
When the policy announcement was made, 700 children had already been separated from their parents since last October, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Videgaray explained that Mexico has tabled its opposition to the policy with the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Organization of American States and other international organizations.
He also said the Mexican government had formally expressed its position to the United States government through a diplomatic note and telephone calls to the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Videgaray explained that Mexico recognizes the United States’ sovereignty and right to implement its own migratory policies but added that “according to our convictions we cannot be indifferent to these incidents that place children in situations of vulnerability.”
He added: “We call on the highest levels of the United States government to reconsider this policy and to give priority to the welfare and the respect for the rights of children regardless of their nationality and immigration status.”
Mexican authorities will meet with their counterparts from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — all large migrant source countries — in Mexico City next week to discuss joint actions to protect migrants’ rights in the United States, Videgaray said.
The foreign secretary’s public condemnation of the child separation policy comes a day after U.S. Customs and Border Protection released footage that showed dozens of children standing or sitting in cages inside a detention center in McAllen, Texas.
Almost 200 unaccompanied children were being held in the facility while a further 500 people were “family units” made up of children and parents who could be later separated from their sons and daughters, according to CBS News.
Investigative news website ProPublica released a recording yesterday in which children can be heard desperately calling out for their parents after being separated from them by U.S. authorities, triggering further condemnation of the policy.
U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has blamed the Democratic Party for its implementation, writing on Twitter Friday that “the Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”
Trump tweeted again on the policy yesterday and in the process seemingly insinuated that he wasn’t about to back down.
“Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country. Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.”