US tries to ease tensions

There were promises of co-operation, of closer economic ties, and frequent odes to the enduring partnership between the U.S. and its southern neighbour. But there were no public mentions of that massive border wall or President Donald Trump's plan to deport non-Mexicans to Mexico as top U.S. officials visited the Mexican capital.

Instead, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson played it safe, acknowledging generally that the U.S. and Mexico are in a period of disagreement without putting any specific dispute under the microscope. It fell to their hosts, and especially Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, to thrust those issues into the spotlight.

"It is an evident fact that Mexicans feel concern and irritation over what are perceived as policies that may hurt Mexicans and the national interest of Mexicans here and abroad," Videgaray said Thursday after meeting with Kelly and Tillerson.

The Americans focused instead on putting to rest some of the fears reverberating across Latin America — such as the notion that the U.S. military might be enlisted to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally en masse. Not so, said Kelly. He said there would be "no mass deportations" and no U.S. military role.

"In a relationship filled with vibrant colours, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences," added Tillerson. "We listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently raised our respective concerns."

Yet those assurances rang hollow for many Mexicans, including those who said they are being deported for things like traffic tickets.

"They were waiting for me outside," said Lucio Cervantes Campos, who was detained in Portland, Oregon, as he came out of court after paying a ticket. Cervantes Campos was one of about five dozen deported Mexican migrants who arrived on a flight Thursday from the United States.

To be sure, millions of people were deported under President Barack Obama, under the same laws Trump now is relying on. But Trump's planned crackdown has created significant concerns for countries like Mexico that appeared no closer to being resolved as Tillerson and Kelly returned to Washington.

Only hours before Kelly vowed "no use of military forces," Trump suggested the opposite.

"It's a military operation," Trump said at the White House. He boasted that the U.S. was "getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate nobody has ever seen before."

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