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Ex-Mexican Foreign Minister Sees Some Good In Trump's Immigration Plan


You could say that a former Mexican foreign minister is trolling an immigration deal.


To be clear, Jorge Castaneda is not mocking it on social media. He is asking if all parts of the deal meet U.S. interests.

INSKEEP: President Trump and Congress are discussing a deal for people brought to the United States as children who don't have legal status now, plus funding for a border wall and more. The ex-foreign minister wrote in The New York Times that much of that deal would be fine for Mexico and bad for the U.S.

JORGE CASTANEDA: From Mexico's standpoint, legalizing somewhere near 1.5 million Mexican DREAMers is something which corresponds very much to Mexico's national interest because it makes it possible for us no longer to have to worry about mistreatment for them, deportation for them, living in the shadows by them. There are about 6 million undocumented Mexican nationals in the U.S. Overnight, 1 out of every 4 would be legalized. That's amnesty, and that's great.

INSKEEP: How do you get to the point of saying that if the United States goes ahead and builds a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, that may also be fine?

CASTANEDA: We don't really believe in Mexico that even with $25 billion, the wall will ever see the light of day. It's important to recall that one-third of the border now has a wall. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have been building fences and walls for nearly 30 years. And it hasn't stopped immigration. I would prefer there not be a wall. I think it's bad for both of our countries. But if 1.5 million young Mexicans can be legalized practically overnight, and what President Trump wants in exchange is some money to build his wall or his toy, that's fine.

INSKEEP: You also have reconciled yourself to the idea of the president's demand to end what he calls chain migration.

CASTANEDA: I think from a Mexican perspective, of course, because somewhere around 200,000 Mexicans receive a green card every year. And that number would probably drop. But that drop from, let's say, 200,000 to 100,000 pales in comparison to the 1.5 million DREAMers who would be legalized. So I would prefer that there not be an end to chain migration because there's a logic to it. But if the price to pay for many of these things is ending what President Trump calls chain migration, so be it.

INSKEEP: I want to note that you also say the idea of ending the so-called visa lottery is fine as far as Mexico's interests are concerned because nobody is selected that way from Mexico. And get to what seems to me to be your bottom-line argument that you think this is a fundamentally racist immigration policy, but it won't hurt Mexico very much. Do you really feel this is a racist package of proposals?

CASTANEDA: I certainly think the intent of ending the lottery system and chain migration is an intent to whiten immigration. It clearly discriminates against immigrants coming from the countries that most have come from over the last 30 years - Mexico, Central America, perhaps Ecuador and countries in the Caribbean, plus Africa through the lottery system. It's very difficult to escape that conclusion.

INSKEEP: Is it possible in your view that such an immigration deal as is now on the table could actually improve relations between Mexico and the United States by settling some issues that concern both sides?

CASTANEDA: Well, I think, paradoxically, even if relations have, perhaps, never been worse in recent memory than they are today at a rhetorical level, if some of this were to happen, or if all of it were to happen, and there were to be essentially satisfactory deal on NAFTA, which is a different affair - but it's linked to this - I think relations would improve enormously.

INSKEEP: Foreign minister, thanks very much for the time.

CASTANEDA: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Jorge Castaneda's a former foreign minister of Mexico.