Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered remarks to and answered questions from the press regarding US-Mexico relations and immigration, including the Mexican government’s decision to increase security at its southern border and the US government’s “remain in Mexico” policy.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
SECRETARY POMPEO: A couple things this afternoon. First, I’ll give some remarks later this week that are consistent with what we’ve been working on for my entire time here in the Indo-Pacific. I’ll be speaking to a group of Indian business leaders in preparation for the trip that I’ll take in a couple weeks where I’ll be visiting India, an important part of President Trump’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific. And I’m looking forward to the opportunity both to give the set of remarks about how it is our relationship is so closely tied economically, but also importantly the things that the United States and India can continue to do to build out what is an incredibly important relationship for both countries.
I thought too I’d spend just a minute here talking about the agreement that was reached with the United States and Mexico on Friday of last week. Frankly, it reflects diplomacy at its finest. It shows the enduring strength, too, of the relationship between our two countries, and it’s a significant win for the American people.
The deal continues the Trump administration’s commitment – the strongest by any administration in history – to confront the tide of illegal immigration and many other problems along our southern border, including the drug trafficking issues that transit there. The President is doing precisely what he said he would do.
We agreed to a number of things, including the placement of 6,000 Mexican National Guard along the Mexican southern border. It’s the biggest effort to date that the Mexicans have committed. It’s something that we pressed for with them throughout the time of the negotiations. We will work closely with them to make sure that that is a successful effort.
Those crossing the U.S. southern border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await their adjudication of their asylum claims. We’ve seen this before; we were able to do this to the tune of a couple of hundred people per day. We now have the capacity to do this full throttle and engage this in a way that will make a fundamental difference in the calculus for those deciding to transit Mexico to try to get into the United States. This full-blown effort under the migration protocols is a big deal and was something that we worked on very, very diligently with our Mexican counterparts over two days.
And we’ll pursue other cooperative efforts, too.
For much of last week, Foreign Secretary Ebrard and his team were excellent partners in all of this. We worked alongside them with our team here at the State Department.
I’ve seen some reporting that says that these countless hours were nothing, that they amounted to a waste of time. I can tell you that the team here at the State Department believes full-throatedly that this an important set of agreements, important set of understandings, one that we’ll continue to work on, because in the end we’ll be measured by the outcomes that we deliver with respect to stemming the flow of illegal immigration into our country.
I want to, on that note, repeat my personal gratitude to Foreign Secretary Ebrard and his team. They worked hard; they were diligent; they defended the Mexican people. I think we made both of our countries proud with this agreement. I spoke to President Trump not too long ago about this. He is grateful to everyone who made this happen, and he had a chance to speak with President Obrador about this as well.
As I mentioned, this isn’t the end of the road. We’ve got a lot of work to do to implement what we’ve agreed to, not just in the joint declaration but the approach to the region, for Central America, that we agreed to last December. And we have full confidence, as the President tweeted yesterday, that Mexico will fulfill its shared commitments.
We’ll continue to work with Mexico to discuss migration asylum issues, and if necessary, we’ll take additional measures that the Mexican government agreed to during these conversations as well.
I look forward to great cooperation between our two countries. And with that, I’m happy to take a couple of questions.
MS ORTAGUS: Christina.
QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.
QUESTION: Can you explain what in this agreement was different than what was discussed between Secretary Nielsen and the Mexican governments in December, the agreement that people have been talking about? And have – in addition, is there a separate agreement with the Mexican government than what was announced Friday, as the President has suggested on Twitter? And both sides have said if there’s not enough progress we’re going to come back to the table and re-evaluate. How are you measuring that? What kind of metric are you going to use? Is there a specific number or target you need them to hit?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Sure. So I was part of those conversations in Houston in December when the original migrant protocols were put in place. The scale, the effort, the commitment here is very different from what we were able to achieve back in December and frankly wouldn’t have happened. The entire team from the Mexican government that came up, they came up because the President had raised the specter of 5 percent tariffs on their products. It’s what prompted this series of conversations that took on a level of seriousness and a timed commitment that we were committed to getting done before the weekend. And so it’s a fundamentally different commitment about doing this across the entire border at scale. You see the numbers in the several thousand per day. Those are the folks that will now be subject to the migrant protocols and will be, when appropriately adjudicated, returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings inside of Mexico.
As for other agreements, there were a number of commitments made. I can’t go into them in detail here, but each side was committed to a set of outcomes. The United States retained its ability to use its own determination of whether there was success along the border. You saw that the announcement was that the President would indefinitely suspend the tariffs. That means if it’s the case that we’re not making sufficient progress that there’s risk that those tariffs will go back in place. And as we had these conversations with my foreign secretary – my counterpart Marcelo, we both understood that. It means that we’re got hard work to do over the coming days and weeks to deliver on those actual outcomes on the ground along our southern border. I know the Mexican government is committed to it, and I know that not only the State Department but DHS and all the others who have real responsibility that will deliver this. I’m confident that this hard work will go to get – go – we will go hand-in-hand to make this deliverable something that we can all say yeah, this resulted from what we did last week.
QUESTION: And is there a metric that you’re going to use to judge that? Like, how will you decide how much progress or if enough progress has been made?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We will evaluate this literally daily.
MS ORTAGUS: Lesley.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, good afternoon. What do you think about other countries such as Brazil and Panama helping with this? Are you talking to them about perhaps backing up Mexico in its efforts to stem this migration, given that it’s – and again, coming to my colleague’s question, how much time are you prepared to give this to ensure – to make sure that it’s actually working?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I can’t answer the second question. Some amount of time. This won’t be instantaneous. It won’t happen today, but the work has already begun. So I don’t know. The agreement – we talked about 90 days, but I imagine that we’ll know the effectiveness, the ability of us to work together to deliver this, much more quickly than that. Perhaps a month, perhaps 45 days, we’ll have a good sense of whether we’re able to achieve these outcomes in the way we’re hoping that we can.
As for other countries, yes, we’re going to work with the Central American countries too. A good deal of the folks who are transiting through – or into our country are coming through Mexico and are not originally from Mexico, and we have high expectations they’ll deliver as well. We have teams that will be working there this week to get agreements with those countries to put the onus where it is for them to make sure that their citizens are not the ones transiting through Mexico into the United States.
I can take one more.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. BBC.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, in the agreement it says the United States and Mexico will lead in working with regional and international partners to build a more prosperous and secure Central America, but there have been steps to cut aid to Central America, so I’m wondering how that fits and whether you’re committing resources, not just sort of negotiations to this. Are you going to put money into it or expertise?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think you’ve conflated economic prosperity with U.S. dollars going down to those places. I don’t think about them that way remotely. Those economies need to grow. They need to develop rule of law. They need to develop systems and to grow their economies. The United States is prepared to do the things we need to do, but we’ve made no incremental resource commitments associated with this deal. We didn’t offer any resource assistance to the Mexican government to deliver these outcomes. We’ve not done so in Central America as well. Where we find it in our interest in the Northern Triangle or in Mexico to provide resources that make sense to protect the American people, we’ll do that. But in the first instance, these nations have the responsibility to take care of these immigration problems in their home country.
Thank you all.