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Mexico Is Looking To The U.S. To Fund Their Migrant Marshall Plan


Mexico says it's going to spend $30 billion over the next five years to curb migration from the region. The plan has come in response to the recent caravans of thousands of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to the U.S. border. Officials are short on details, including where Mexico's going to get the money. And the Trump administration appears unlikely to help. Here's NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Mexico's new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, says he told President Trump directly about his $30 billion plan during their phone call this week.



KAHN: "It was a really good conversation - friendly and respectful," said Lopez Obrador. Mexico's plan is being likened to the post-World War II reconstruction Marshall Plan. Lopez Obrador says he raised the possibility of the U.S. investing in it with Trump. He didn't say what Trump's response was.


LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Migration must be optional, not obligatory" says Lopez Obrador. He says the topic of Trump's border wall didn't come up in their phone call, but it did come up in a subsequent tweet from Trump. He tweeted that Mexico is paying for the border wall through what Trump claims are savings to the U.S. in the recently negotiated USMCA trade pact. Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for a border wall had soured relations with Mexico's past president, who would publicly reject the idea. Lopez Obrador, however, appears not to be biting. Lopez Obrador has been playing it very careful with Trump, says Rafael Fernandez de Castro, director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC, San Diego.

RAFAEL FERNANDEZ DE CASTRO: He wants to try to use that - sort of a honeymoon with Trump to try to come out with a very important and meaningful plan - development plan for Central America and Southern Mexico.

KAHN: Mexican officials have given few details of the plan. But at this week's U.N. migration conference in Morocco, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard says Mexico's past policy had to change.


MARCELO EBRARD: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Today what happens to migrants traveling through our country is a disgrace," said Ebrard. Many are robbed and assaulted by crime gangs and officials. Ebrard says the new plan will address better border enforcement, but the bulk of the $30 billion will go toward creating jobs in Central America and Southern Mexico. Ebrard insists this is much better than excluding and controlling, which is how migration is dealt with now around the world.


EBRARD: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We must demonstrate to the world that this is a feasible and more efficient way," he said. Critics say Mexico is naive to think Trump is going to contribute to such a costly plan. He showed little interest in investing in Central America and has threatened to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras if they don't do more to stop their migrant caravans traveling toward the U.S. The administration has also said it wants asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait out their claims in U.S. courts. Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says Mexico definitely has things Trump wants.

DORIS MEISSNER: That's a very important point of leverage that Mexico has if it really wants to push the long-term development idea. I mean, you can see the elements of an agreement coming out of that.

KAHN: Foreign Minister Ebrard says Mexico and Central America will be ready to show donors some job-creating projects as soon as January. And he says seven countries have already expressed interest in contributing to the plan. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOWER SPECTRUM'S "ISOMETRIC") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.