US promises no mass deportations in bid to calm Mexico

MEXICO CITY - US officials promised Mexico no "mass deportations" or use of military force to expel immigrants, moving to calm tensions over President Donald Trump's vow to crack down on "bad dudes" illegally residing in his country.

US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Mexican ministers who expressed "concern and irritation" over Trump's combative stance on trade and migration ties with Mexico.

Trump has outraged the United States' southern neighbour by vowing to build a wall along the border to keep out immigrants, and branding those from Mexico as rapists and criminals during his presidential campaign.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Tuesday issued new orders to step up the arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants, many of them Mexicans.

But Kelly promised at a news conference in Mexico City on Thursday that "there will be no, repeat, no mass deportations. Everything we do in the DHS will be done legally."

"There will be no use of military force for immigration operations," he added.

Earlier at the White House, Trump had described the stepped-up deportation drive as "a military operation."

But his spokesman Sean Spicer later told a news conference that Trump was using the term "military" simply "as an adjective" to mean "efficient."

Or as Trump himself put it: "We're getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody's ever seen before." .

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who met with Tillerson, repeated his vow not to let the United States impose migration reforms on it "unilaterally."

"There is concern and irritation among Mexicans about what are seen as policies that could be detrimental for Mexicans in Mexico and abroad," he said.

"There are well-known differences and the best way to resolve them is through frank, clear dialogue." Tillerson said the two sides "reiterated our joint commitment to maintaining law and order along our shared border by stopping potential terrorists and dismantling the transnational criminal networks moving drugs and people into the United States."

But he agreed that co-operation on border security had to work both ways.

"We underscored the importance of stopping the illegal firearms and bulk cash that is originating in the United States and flowing into Mexico," he said.

"There's no mistaking that the rule of law matters along both sides of the border." Kelly said the two countries were also cooperating on ways to stop US-bound migrants travelling up through Mexico from the impoverished and violent nations of Central America.

The US officials met later with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had cancelled a planned meeting with Trump in Washington last month over the US leader's vow to make Mexico pay for the border wall.

Meanwhile, a few dozen mostly American protesters gathered in front of the US embassy to demand a halt to Trump's rhetoric against Mexico.

In a move that may be aimed at pressuring Mexico, Trump has ordered US government agencies to count how much aid they are giving to that country.

Mexico sends 80 per cent of its exports to the United States.

Trump has vowed to crack down on US companies producing in Mexico, hoping to see jobs shifted back to the United States.

He has also threatened to block remittances sent to Mexico by Mexican workers in the United States and called for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told the Televisa network Thursday that his country would place retaliatory tariffs on US goods as a "plan B" if a renegotiated agreement left Mexico in the lurch.

Trump has said he is determined to reduce the US$70 billion (S$98.3 billion) US trade deficit with Mexico even at the risk of harming ties.

"We're going to have a good relationship with Mexico, I hope," he said Thursday. "And if we don't, we don't."

Trump sworn in as 45th US president

  • President Donald Trump assumed power Friday with a fiercely nationalistic vow to put "America first," declaring a new political era after being sworn in as the 45th US head of state.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people stood in the rain-splattered National Mall to see the 70-year-old Republican billionaire take the oath of office and deliver a stridently populist call-to-arms.
  • Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn arrive for the inauguration of President Trump.
  • Former US president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • Former US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.
  • Bush put up a struggle with his poncho.
  • American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a donor to the Trump campaign.
  • Senators Bernie Sanders and John McCain.
  • "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump said, promising an end to business-as-usual in Washington.

    "From this moment on, it's going to be only America First."

  • "Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC. And giving it back to you, the people."
  • While the US capital city no longer provides official crowd counts, the turnout was visibly smaller than for Barack Obama's two inaugurations, in 2009 and 2013, with sections of the Mall and bleachers along the parade route left empty.
  • And as the incoming leader rallied his supporters for the swearing-in, throngs of his opponents also converged on Washington.
  • Most of the protests - by an array of anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, LGBT, pro-immigration and marijuana legalization groups - were noisy but peaceful, though sporadic violence marred the day.
  • Between 400 and 500 masked, black-clad protesters carrying anarchist flags smashed windows, lit fires and scuffled with riot police in downtown Washington, blocks from the parade held in Trump's honour, with over 90 people arrested for vandalism.
  • Even the peaceful protesters were intent on spoiling Trump's party - letting out a deafening roar as the presidential limousine known as "The Beast" rolled by on the way to the White House.
  • "Not my president! Not my president!" they yelled, as the pro- Trump crowd in bleachers across the street chanted "USA! USA!".
  • Trump's inauguration caps the improbable rise to power of the Manhattan real estate magnate who has never before held elected office, served in government or in the armed forces.
  • His speech was far from the typical optimistic inaugural address that tries to bridge political divides and lift Americans' gaze up to the horizon.
  • It was a deliberate and striking contrast from the uplifting message of Obama, the outgoing president who was among the dignitaries in attendance.
  • Obama and his wife Michelle departed the Capitol by helicopter moments after the swearing-in ceremony, turning a page on eight years of Democratic leadership in the White House.
  • At a Congressional luncheon afterward, Trump led a standing ovation for his defeated election rival Hillary Clinton, saying he was "honoured" that she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, attended his inauguration.
  • When Trump descended the escalators of his glitzy New York tower in June 2015, his run for office was roundly dismissed and even mocked.
  • Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance during the Armed Forces ball at the National Building Museum.
  • Trump, the first lady Melania Trump, US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen cut a cake after dancing at the Armed Services ball.