MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press
MEXICO CITY (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown took a not-so-subtle dig at Texas’ decision to deploy National Guard troops to the border, saying Monday that he expects it to be a short-lived measure and that “wiser minds will prevail.”
Brown is in Mexico for three days of meetings, focusing on migration, trade, investment and environmental cooperation.
At a news conference with Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade, Brown said the immigration overload of thousands of Central American youths at the border should be seen as a humanitarian issue. The U.S. is coping with a dramatic increase in the number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the border, coming mainly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Meade said he and Brown agree the use of law-enforcement or military agencies “is never justified in cases where children are concerned” unless they are providing medical or logistical aid.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, announced a decision last week to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border over the next month to combat what he said were criminals exploiting the surge of children pouring into the U.S. illegally.
Asked about that, California’s Democratic governor said: “I hesitate to comment on the thinking that goes into the sending of the Texas National Guard to the border. I would suspect that it would be of relatively short duration and that wiser minds will prevail in the next several months.”
Brown said the immigration surge has become politicized, adding: “My goal is to try as much as I can to frame the issue of the children as a humanitarian challenge. That should appeal to people of all political persuasions.” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday she is helping secure lawyers to represent minors during immigration hearings.
Meade said few Central American migrants apply for asylum in Mexico because they are trying to join relatives in the United States.
While many migrants, especially those from Honduras and El Salvador, say they are fleeing gang-related violence in their home countries, less than one in 60 of those caught in Mexico in 2013 asked for asylum in Mexico. The numbers for the first six months of 2014 show only a slight uptick, with about one of 50 requesting asylum. About 20 percent to 25 percent of such applications have been approved in recent years.
“The fundamental goal, in many cases, is (family) reunification. That means the migrant’s desire is really not to stay in Mexico,” Meade said. “That explains why there are so few (asylum) requests in Mexico.”
Brown met privately with President Enrique Pena Nieto to discuss immigration, renewable energy and ways to shorten long waits at the Tijuana-San Diego international bridge.
“Whatever has to be done in two hours can be done in 15 minutes, or maybe in 30 minutes. The question is what would it take to transform the delay into an appropriate, much briefer period of waiting,” Brown said.
Brown said he expects to have some proposals by the time Pena Nieto visits California in August.
In a statement, Pena Nieto’s office noted that “California is home to the largest Mexican community abroad, and for that reason both sides agreed to increase cooperation to ensure the welfare of that population.”
Brown’s trade mission is aimed at increasing direct investments in California, promoting university exchanges and forming environmental partnerships to combat climate change.
On Tuesday, he is to sign an education agreement, then meet with Mexico’s energy secretary, the president of the senate and other officials. On Wednesday, the governor plans to wrap up his trip by signing a trade agreement with Mexico, which is California’s largest export market.
The trip, organized by the California Chamber of Commerce, includes a delegation of more than 100 people representing state government, business, economic development, investment and policy. Delegates paid $5,000 each for the trip, which is subsidizing the cost of Brown’s travel.
Business participants include Sempra Energy, BP America and representatives of the energy, tourism and agriculture industries. Representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund also are attending.
Associated Press writer Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this report.