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Mexico’s top diplomat to visit immigrant-friendly California


    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, listens as Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray speaks at the State Department in Washington.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. >> Mexico’s top diplomat will make a two-day visit to immigrant-friendly California amid strained relations between his country and the U.S. over President Donald Trump’s border wall and immigration and trade proposals.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray is expected to meet Monday with Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders in California’s capital. He will later head to Los Angeles to announce support for young immigrants whose protection from deportation is being terminated by Trump and meet with business and community leaders. He also plans a trip to Washington later in the week, officials at the Los Angeles consulate said.

The trip comes at a critical time in relations between the two countries. In the last few weeks, Trump has stepped up efforts to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and moved to end the program that let roughly 800,000 immigrants — three-quarters of them Mexican — work in the country even though they lack immigration status.

It also comes as negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, demanded by Trump, got off to a rocky start.

The trip aims to awaken Mexico’s so-called natural allies and send a message to Washington that the countries ought to work together, said Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“It is complicated to have a strong relationship with the White House because of who is there, so now Mexico is playing the Washington game and the Washington game is very decentralized,” he said. “He is coming, I would say, to friendly ground in which his message is going to be well-received.”

Mexico and the United States share a long border and extensive ties. But the relationship has faced new challenges since the election of Trump, who referred to Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists during his campaign and has taken a series of measures to boost immigration enforcement.

California has pushed back against Trump’s efforts to enlist local law enforcement to carry out his immigration plans. The state is home to 10 million foreign-born residents, about 4 million from Mexico.

On Monday, Videgaray will meet with some of the immigrants currently protected under the program that Trump is rescinding. The Obama administration began the program in 2012 to let immigrants brought to the country as children work even though they don’t have legal status here.

He will also discuss ways the Mexican government can support these immigrants. The country last week lamented Trump’s decision to yank the program and announced plans to create a special job bank for those affected and support their education.

Videgaray met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in late August, just days before Trump announced his decision on the program.

Mexico and the United States recently participated in a second round of NAFTA renegotiations along with Canada. Trump has said he could withdraw the United States from the 23-year-old pact, and Mexico said it won’t stay at the table if it doesn’t get a fair deal. The talk has raised concerns among businesspeople on both sides of the border.

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