Trump's top officials in Mexico: Not a warm reception for Rex Tillerson and John Kelly

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico on February 22, 2017. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION New York, NY, United States Feb 23, 2017, 09.19 PM (IST)

Mexico on Thursday gave a cool reception to visiting senior US officials, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and secretary of homeland security John Kelly, amid the deportation controversy.

Senior Mexican officials expressed “worry and irritation” about US policies while Trump’s top envoys tried to cool tempers.

"There exists among Mexicans worry and irritation about what are perceived to be policies that could be harmful for the national interest and for Mexicans here and abroad," foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told a news conference after talks with Tillerson and Kelly, news agency Reuters reported.

Videgaray added that it is "a complex time" for US-Mexican relations.

The already strained US-Mexico ties received another blow this week when the US government said it was seeking to deport many illegal immigrants to Mexico if they entered the US from there, regardless of their nationality.

The tensions over immigration come at a time when the two countries are already at loggerheads over Trump’s vow to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and his attempts to get Mexico to give concessions on trade.

The two sides on Thursday pledged further dialogue on migration, security issues and trade, Reuters reported.

Kelly says no mass deportations or military force

Earlier on Thursday at the White House, Trump described the stepped-up deportation drive as “a military operation”, AFP reported.

"We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before," Trump said.

However, Kelly in Mexico contradicted Trump’s statement by promising "no mass deportations" or military force against immigrants in the US.

"There will be no, repeat no mass deportations", Kelly told a news conference in Mexico, AFP reported. "There will be no use of military force for immigration operations."

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.", AFP reported.

But he agreed that cooperation 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, AFP reported.

"There's no mistaking that the rule of law matters along both sides of the border."

While US officials said the trip was aimed at building positive relations, Trump said he was determined to reduce the $70 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. And if we don’t, we don’t," he said, AFP reported.

Protest against envoys, Trump's "wall" set ablze at carnival

A group of protesters gathered outside Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Relations shouting slogans outside and holding banners that said "The secretaries are not welcome," and "Stop Donald Trump, Hate, Racism, Ignorance."

"We delcare non gratis these secretaries of state (sic.), and we also declare non gratis Donald Trump for all the damage he has caused in the community, and continues causing," protester Maria Garcia told Reuters.

At the annual carnival of the Mexican city of Veracruz revellers burned  an effigy representing Trump's proposed "wall", Reuters reported. There was also a play parodying Trump with actors dressed as the president and his wife Melania.

"It's like, we're rebelling against the United States. It's as if we are saying: 'Yes, we can.' Because we Mexicans are better than United States," resident Luz Gutierrez told Reuters.

(WION with inputs from AFP and Reuters)