Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answers questions related to US policy regarding efforts to prevent immigrants from reaching the US-Mexico border, the recent agreement with Mexico to that end, and his upcoming visit to El Salvador. The transcript below was edited to only include issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean.
QUESTION: All right, Buck Sexton here with the Buck Sexton Show. We are joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Mr. Secretary, we are here in Mexico City. Thank you so much for your time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, it’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: So let’s start with the migration crisis, if we can. What needs to be done by our Mexican counterparts to meet the Trump deadline? What have they done so far and where are there still some areas that might need to be further negotiated?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’re now just about 45 days after the agreement that the State Department worked out with Marcelo Ebrard and his ministry, foreign ministry here in Mexico. We’ve made real progress. There’s a whole lot more enforcement on the Mexican side, both on their southern border and increased enforcement on their northern border as well. We now have processes – the Migration Protection Protocols and plans – that are being executed. It has reduced the number of illegal transits coming across our border, but it’s still too high. There’s still more work that needs to be done. We need to do this cooperatively; we may have to find methodologies. There’s no silver bullet, but we need to create a model that deters these people from taking this track which is so dangerous and so harmful to so many people leaving the Northern Triangle and transiting through Mexico.
QUESTION: What is the status of the safe third country agreement right now with Mexico? Do you think it will hold? People are talking about possible court challenges. Is the Mexican Government committed to continuing to hold migrants as they try to cross through and make their way to the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m going to talk to Foreign Minister Ebrard today about the safe third agreement, about all the other elements of the combined plan as well. People tend to focus on one thing at a time. In fact, it’s going to be a series of things that deliver this outcome of American sovereignty, American protection at its border. It’s going to take more work on our side as well, so there are many pieces of this puzzle. I just – when folks single out a particular document or a particular theory of how we’re going to stop this, I always caution them that this is a challenging problem. We have to be aggressive on every front.
QUESTION: Is the Mexican Government sufficiently committed to helping us on this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The only thing that matters is the numbers, right? The only thing that matters is not words, not pieces of paper, not agreements, but in the end: are we able to successfully control our border? I’ve watched their re-engagement. I applaud them for that – applaud President Obrador for taking steps that the previous government wasn’t prepared to take, and that’s good news, but we’ve got to get to a better place. We’re still not where America needs to be, and frankly, I think it’s not only better for America but I think it’s better for the people of Northern Triangle and Mexico as well.
QUESTION: I understand you’ll be in El Salvador, part of the Northern Triangle. How are they handling their end of the partnership here to deal with this crisis? What do we expect from them, what do we want from them, and what can they do?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Buck, we have broadened our diplomatic engagement with the Northern Triangle. We’ve taken this very seriously. Many of the folks that we apprehend today at our southern border are not only from those three countries but are transiting through those three countries. They have an obligation. It’s interesting – I saw some statistics on how many Guatemalans have left, how deep the level of migration is. This isn’t good for Guatemala to have their citizens leaving either. They need their people to want to stay in the country, and their leaders need to create rule of law and systems that will convince them that that’s the right thing to do.
But in the interim, we have enforcement measures and deterrence measures that we have to put in place, so I’ll be with the new leader in El Salvador and I’ll speak with the Guatemalans later this week as well by phone. There’s still a lot of work to do as they are – there are too many people leaving the Northern Triangle and transiting Mexico.