/NBC News) — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continued talks with Mexican officials on Thursday ahead of a planned meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto — a trek that President Donald Trump himself acknowledged was “going to be a tough trip.”
Tillerson, the new head of the State Department, is working to smooth over tensions sparked by brash rhetoric, plans to build a border wall, and most recently the Department of Homeland Security’s new immigration guidelines. The plans unveiled Tuesday would consider almost all undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and includes sending those who enter the U.S. illegally via the southern border back to Mexico, even if they aren’t from there.
On Thursday, Tillerson sought to assuage concerns.
“Let me be clear, there will be no mass deportations, everything we do in DHS will be done legally,” Tillerson said during a press conference following his meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. “The focus of deportation will be on the criminal element, all of this will be done in close coordination with Mexico.”
Videgaray, Mexico’s lead negotiator with the Trump administration, pushed back against the deportation plans on Wednesday stressing “we also have control of our borders and we will exercise it fully.”
On Thursday, the tone was more collegial.
Videgaray described his in-person talks with Tillerson as “productive” and the two officials discussed getting to the source of the Central American migration issue, the implication of U.S. policies on Mexico and preventing terrorism and criminal activity.
“This visit takes place at a complex time for relations between our two countries,” Videgaray said after his meeting with Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
“At a time when both of our countries and our governments have notable differences, the best path to solving them is dialogue,” he added.
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