The Mexican government says President Enrique Pena Nieto did not call U.S. President Donald Trump to compliment his immigration policies, as Trump had claimed.
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Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said in a statement late Monday that Pena Nieto “has not had any recent telephone communication with President Donald Trump.”
Trump said earlier Monday, “As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they’re close to 80 percent stoppage. Even the president of Mexico called me — They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”
The department said Pena Nieto did remark to Trump during a July 7 meeting at the G20 summit in Germany that deportations of Mexicans from the United States had fallen 31 percent between January and June, as compared to 2016.
Pena Nieto said 47 percent fewer Central American migrants had entered Mexico in that period.
An American official confirmed that no telephone conversation recently occurred between Trump and Pena Nieto.
The suggestion became an issue, however, as Mexican opposition legislators jumped on Trump’s account and complained about what sounded like a “secret phone call” between the pair, and the idea of Pena Nieto praising Trump on migration. Mexico has officially opposed many of Trump’s initiatives, including his claim that Mexico would pay for a border wall.
Mexican officials, including Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, reached out to American counterparts and noted the presidents spoke about migration at the G20 in Hamburg last month. Pena Nieto spoke cited statistics about migration from Central American to Mexico declining significantly, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
Whereas Trump said he received a compliment from Pena Nieto, the Mexican leader and his aides recounted it less as praise and more as a statement of fact.
Mexico would normally be pleased about any drop in deportations and Central American illegal immigration, but would probably be unlikely to call it “the ultimate compliment” to the United States. Mexico says it enforces security on its southern border of its own volition.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report from Mexico City.