Mexico diplomat talks immigration in California trip

AP News
Posted: Sep 12, 2017 12:33 AM
Mexico diplomat talks immigration in California trip

LOS ANGELES (AP) — After a day huddling in California's capital on immigration, trade and climate, Mexico's top diplomat is hitting Los Angeles to close out a two-day visit to the immigrant-friendly state.

Mexico Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgary's trip to California comes at a critical time in relations between his country and the United States and amid uncertainty over the future of a program that protects roughly 800,000 young immigrants who are living in the United States from deportation.

In Los Angeles, Videgaray will announce support for those young immigrants — hundreds of thousands of whom are Mexican. He'll also meet with community and business leaders and tout a program providing immigrant mental health services. He travels to Washington on Wednesday, where he plans to implore members of Congress to continue the program that President Donald Trump says will be terminated in six months if lawmakers do not act.

"We strongly hope the U.S. Congress will act promptly to provide certainty and a permanent solution to these young people that want to stay in America," he said Monday in Sacramento before meeting with about 25 participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.

Mexico last week announced plans to create a special job bank for those affected and support their educations. The country will also assist them with legal aid, Videgaray said.

Alongside immigration uncertainties, Videgaray's visit comes as negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, demanded by Trump, got off to a rocky start.

Trump has said he could withdraw the United States from the 23-year-old pact between the two countries and Canada, and Mexico said it won't stay at the table if it doesn't get a fair deal. Noting the importance of trade between California and Mexico, Videgaray said he's hopeful for a deal that benefits all three nations.

"We're looking forward to having a better NAFTA that represents a win-win for the three countries," he said. "And we believe that this process is going to be quite relevant for California."

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Mexico and the United States share a long border and extensive ties. But the relationship has faced new challenges since the election of Trump, who referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists during his campaign and has taken a series of measures to boost immigration enforcement.

California, meanwhile, has repeatedly struck a separate path from the White House and is pushing back against Trump's efforts to enlist local law enforcement to carry out his immigration plans. The state is home to 10 million foreign-born residents, about 4 million from Mexico.

While Videgaray was in Sacramento, Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced revisions on a bill to prohibit state and local police from asking about people's immigration status or enforcing federal immigration laws. It would still preserve the ability of law officers to cooperate on federal task forces as long as the task force doesn't specifically work on immigration enforcement.