Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto shifted his tone on the U.S immigration debate on Wednesday, acknowledging that the humanitarian crisis unleashed by thousands of deportations made him feel “indignant.”
When asked by Fusion anchor Leon Krauze if he felt indignant about the “scale of the humanitarian crisis” caused by the deportations, Peña Nieto was unequivocal in his response:
“Yes, it makes me indignant, and it makes Mexicans indignant,” he said. “We lament that this happens and it was a subject that we brought up at the binational summit between the U.S. and Mexico before the North American summit last week in Toluca. It was an issue in which we asked for more collaboration with the government of the United States.”
Peña Nieto added that the U.S. should have passed an immigration reform law that would help 11 million undocumented immigrants living in that country “a long time ago.”
“We’re talking about 11 million immigrants who lack a regular status, who are not legally recognized in that country, “ he said. “Yet they contribute with their daily efforts to the wealth generated in that country,” the Mexican president said. “I think it would be fair to recognize their efforts, and grant them an immigration reform that would allow them to live legally in the United States.”
Krauze asked Peña Nieto whether it was time for Mexico, which has millions of undocumented citizens living in the United States, to pressure the U.S. to move forward, he emphasized that immigration reform was an internal U.S. problem, in which the Mexican government did not want to interfere.
He added, however, that it would be “just” for immigration reform to succeed in the United States, and said that an immigration law that allowed undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. should have the “backing of the different political forces that exist in the United States.”
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Mexicans make up 52 percent of all undocumented immigrants in the United States. The wave of immigration from Mexico in recent decades was the largest from a single country in U.S. history.
Peña Nieto has been under pressure in Mexico to speak out on immigration reform and deportations, which have reached record levels under the Obama administration.
The Mexican president added that he would like “collaboration” with the U.S. to improve in immigration matters, similar to the way both countries have collaborated closely on security issues.
More from Fusion's interview with Enrique Peña Nieto:
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.