For decades since the UN was founded after World War II, the international convention on refugees is that they must be allowed passage to the destination they choose, without interference by any other country.
That’s what the US practiced until Trump’s “wait in Mexico” policy which requires refugees to remain on the other side of the border while their cases are being adjudicated, with no guarantee of a swift decision or eventual approval
The policy is somewhat similar to what the UK has done to keep refugees out. As a member of the European Union, it was allowed to put its border checkpoints on the French side of the Channel and thousands of refugees ended up waiting for months and years in makeshift camps near Calais, Dunkirk, and the tunnel entrance, hoping the UK would grant them permission to enter.
In France, bigoted and racist far-Right extremists, like Marine Le Pen, exploited the situation for their own political gain, a consequence that continues to this day.
Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy similarly keeps the burden of caring for and protecting refugees south of the border, out of sight, and out of mind.
Now Trump wants Mexico to do even more. He’s demanding that the Mexican government violate the UN Convention on Refugees by stopping them from proceeding to the US border. On top of that, he’s threatening to impose tariffs on goods imported from Mexico, if they fail to comply with his wishes.
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, posted his response to Trump on his website this morning. It’s in Spanish and I translated his beautiful and eloquent words into English.
Mexico City, May 30, 2019
President Donald Trump,
I am aware of your latest position in regard to Mexico. In advance, I express to you that I don’t want confrontation. The peoples and nations that we represent deserve that we resort to dialogue and act with prudence and responsibility, in the face of any conflict in our relations, serious as it may be.
The greatest President of Mexico, Benito Juárez, maintained excellent relations with the Republican hero, Abraham Lincoln. Later, when Mexico nationalized its oil resources and industry, Democratic President Franklin D, Roosevelt understood the profound reasons that led our patriotic President Lázaro Cárdenas to act in favor of our sovereignty. By the way, President Roosevelt was a titan of freedom who proclaimed the four fundamental rights of man: the right to freedom of speech; the right to freedom of religion; the right to live free from fear; and the right to live free from misery.
With this in mind, we frame our policy on immigration. Human beings do not leave their villages for pleasure but out of necessity. That’s why, from the beginning of my government, I proposed opting for cooperation in development and aid for the Central American countries with productive investments to create jobs and resolve this painful situation.
You also know that we are fulfilling our responsibility to prevent, as much as possible and without violating human rights, any passage of the persons concerned through our country. It is worth remembering that – in a short time, Mexicans will not need to go to the United States and that migration will be optional, not forced. This is because we are fighting, like never before, the main problem in Mexico, corruption. And, in this way, our country will attain a powerful social dimension. Our countrymen will be able to work and be happy where they were born, where their families, their customs and their cultures are.
President Trump, social problems are not resolved by tariffs or coercive measures like turning a neighboring country overnight into a ghetto, an enclosed place for the migrants of the world, where they’re stigmatized, abused, persecuted, and excluded and the right to justice is denied to those who seek to work and to live free from want. The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol.
With all due respect, although you have the sovereign right to say it, the slogan “United States First” is a fallacy because universal justice and fraternity will prevail until the end of time, even over national borders.
Specifically, citizen President, I propose to deepen our dialogue, and seek alternatives to the immigration problem. And, please remember that I do not lack courage, that I am not cowardly or timorous, but that I act on principles. I believe that politics was invented to avoid confrontation and war, among other things. I do not believe in the Law of Talon, in a ‘tooth for a tooth’ or an ‘eye for an eye’ because, if we practiced it, we would all be toothless and one-eyed. I believe that as statesmen and even more so as patriots, we are obliged to seek peaceful solutions to controversies and to practice the beautiful ideal of non-violence, forever.
Finally, I suggest that you instruct your officials, if it doesn’t cause any inconvenience. that they attend to representatives of our government, headed by the Secretary of Foreign Relations, who will be in Washington tomorrow to reach an agreement for the benefit of our two nations.
Nothing by force. Everything by reason and human rights.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador
President of México