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Mexican foreign secretary goes straight to the White House, skips usual channels

 (AFP / Getty Images)
(AFP / Getty Images)

Mexico's top diplomat came to Washington Thursday for meetings with the U.S. government, sidestepping the normal channels and heading straight for the White House.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray met at the White House with President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, along with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a top financial aide, the Mexican government announced.

Striking in its absence from that announcement was any mention of a meeting with officials from the State Department.

It is customary for foreign secretaries from all nations to be received by their U.S. counterpart when in Washington, currently Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But when asked whether any sessions were scheduled at the State Department, the spokesman, Mark Toner, said he didn't know Videgaray was in town. That disconnect suggested the State Department, under Trump, was being marginalized.

Later, however, Videgaray himself explained that he had spoken by telephone to Tillerson the night before to let him know he was arriving in Washington.

But Videgaray said the thrust of his mission meant he needed to speak directly to the White House. He and Tillerson agreed to meet in person in a couple of weeks, Videgaray said, part of an ongoing "dialogue" the two governments are holding to attempt to repair relations damaged by Trump's bombastic campaign rhetoric against Mexico.

For Thursday's meetings, however, Videgaray said he had to raise Mexican complaints about U.S. suggestions it would separate migrant children from their parents at the border as a way to discourage illegal crossings.   

"Family integrity," Videgaray said during a briefing at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, "is a basic human right."

He said his U.S. interlocutors said the separation plan was only "under consideration."

Tillerson and Videgaray met two weeks ago in Mexico City, along with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and his Mexican counterpart, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.

Mexico has also objected to U.S. suggestions it would dump non-Mexican migrants over the border inside Mexico.

The Trump administration has had little success in soothing Mexican anger after the new president unleashed a string of insults against Mexicans and insisted they would pay for a multi-billion-dollar wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump says it would stop illegal immigration and the flow of illicit drugs, something most experts dispute.

New U.S. statistics show detentions of people crossing the border illegally are declining, part of an overall immigration slowdown that has been taking place for the last decade.

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