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Mexico rejects U.S. plan to deport Central Americans to Mexico

Federal agents arrest a foreign national during an immigration enforcement raid in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. (Charles Reed / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
Federal agents arrest a foreign national during an immigration enforcement raid in Los Angeles on Feb. 13. (Charles Reed / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Mexico has informed the Trump administration that it cannot accept non-Mexican nationals whom U.S. authorities arrest along the  border and seek to remove from U.S. territory,  the nation’s internal security chief said Friday.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration rolled out a broad immigration crackdown that included a proposal to send non-Mexican detainees apprehended along  the U.S.-Mexico border back to Mexico while their immigration cases were pending in the United States.

The vast majority of  non-Mexican nationals detained along the U.S.-Mexico border are Central Americans. They  often travel overland through Mexico to reach the United States.

In a fact sheet released Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said that releasing detained, third-country nationals “to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived” would save on detention and adjudication resources. The idea would be to keep them out “pending their hearings” on deportation, the fact sheet said.

However, Mexican authorities have reacted coolly from the outset to the notion. Now, they appear to have formally nixed the idea.

On Friday, Mexico’s interior secretary, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, told a radio interviewer than Mexican authorities had informed  a pair of visiting U.S. Cabinet officers — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly — that Mexico could not oblige the U.S. request.

“We told them that our legal framework doesn’t allow this,” Osorio Chong told Radio Formula, referring to the visit this week of the two Trump Cabinet officials. “ We told them it is impossible. There is no way, legally, nor is there capacity.”

In recent years, non-Mexicans, mostly Central Americans, have become a larger proportion of illegal immigrants apprehended along the Southwest border  as the relative  number of Mexican nationals has declined.

In fiscal year 2016, according to U.S. Border Patrol statistics, agents recorded apprehensions of almost 191,000 undocumented Mexican citizens along the Southwest frontier.  In the same fiscal year, the Border Patrol said it registered 218,000 detentions of non-Mexican nationals, most of them Central Americans.

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

An earlier version of this blog post misspelled Miguel Angel Osorio Chong's name as Osorio Chung.

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