UPDATE AS OF 12:25 PM: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has decided to cancel next week's meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House next week after Trump ordered the construction of a wall at the Mexican border and suggested that some of the $25 billion in remittances migrants return home would be retained to pay for the barrier. Peña Nieto made the decision after an outraged Mexican public urged him to cancel, calling Trump a "bully."
Esta mañana hemos informado a la Casa Blanca que no asistiré a la reunión de trabajo programada para el próximo martes con el @POTUS.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@Enrique Peña Nieto) 1485449319.0
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto slammed President Donald Trump in a video statement published to social media yesterday after Trump ordered the construction of a wall at the Mexican border.
In his statement, Peña Nieto rejected Trump's claim that Mexico will reimburse the United States for the cost of the wall and his suggestion that some of the $25 billion in remittances migrants return home would be retained to pay for the barrier.
“Today, the U.S. president signed two executive orders relevant to our country,” Peña Nieto said. “I regret and reproach the decision of the United States to build a wall that for many years, far from uniting us, has divided us. Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said it many times before––Mexico will not pay for a wall."
Trump signed an executive order for the wall during an appearance at the Department of Homeland Security. The executive order will increase the staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which would hire an additional 5,000 employees. It would also require the Department of Homeland Security to publicly detail how much aid Mexico receives, an indication that the administration might redirect that money to fund the wall’s construction.
A second order aims to eliminate sanctuary cities where municipal officials refuse to hand undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. The order will triple resources for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and mandate the federal government to identify “criminal aliens” in the United States.
Un mensaje para todos los mexicanos: https://t.co/EFcNh7fQtm— Enrique Peña Nieto (@Enrique Peña Nieto) 1485398468.0
Peña Nieto issued a call to action to legislators and civil organizations to help immigrants and said he has ordered government agencies to give Mexican immigrants the protections they require while they are in the United States. “I’ve ordered the Secretary of Exterior Affairs to reinforce the safety measures for our co-nationals. The 50 Mexican embassies will become authentic legal defense for immigrants,” Peña Nieto added.
The Mexican president made no mention of postponing or canceling a trip to Washington on January 31 to meet Trump for the first time since Trump visited Mexico during his presidential campaign. Mexican officials arrived in Washington yesterday to prepare for Peña Nieto's visit, which diplomats see as a chance to repair already strained U.S-Mexican relations and to get past the anti-Mexico rhetoric Trump used throughout an often incendiary campaign. Peña Nieto said he will wait for a final report from his officials in Washington and previous meetings with Mexican legislators before he makes his next move.
"There is... frustration with our government and ourselves that we have not been able to tell the story of this important relationship," a Mexican diplomat told reporters ahead of the visit. "There are a lot of stereotypes of Mexicans in the US, but there are also stereotypes of Americans in Mexico. It is in the interest of both governments to explain what this relationship is and what we can do together."
Peña Nieto closed his statement on a hopeful,
even reconciliatory, note.
“As President of the Republic, I take on the full responsibility of defending and watching over the interests of Mexico and its people,” he said.
“Mexico offers and demands respect, like the completely sovereign nation that we are. Mexico extends its friendship with the American people and their will to reach agreements with their government, agreements that will be in favor of Mexico and its people."
Peña Nieto's opposition lies in stark contrast to claims Trump made in an interview with ABC yesterday, including a promise that Mexico would "absolutely, 100%" reimburse the United States for the cost of the wall.
"All it is, is we'll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico," Trump said. "I'm just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I'm doing is good for the United States. It's also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico."
When asked when construction would begin, Trump said construction would happen in a matter of "months."
"As soon as we can, as soon as we can physically do it," he said. "I would say in months, yeah. I would say in months -- certainly planning is starting immediately."
Congress would have to approve funding for the construction, however, and it's estimated the structure would cost billions of dollars. In an interview, House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged that Congress would foot the initial bill for construction.
"We’re going to pay for it and front the money,” Ryan said. "The president said he's going to get reimbursed one way or the other and we accept that. Meantime, we do have to pay our bills."