WASHINGTON (UPI) — President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto offered a response Friday to Donald Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention, during which he pledged to seal the southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.
The presidents met at the White House to discuss and celebrate U.S.-Mexico relations. Both leaders praised the diplomacy of the neighboring governments and expressed hope it will continue.
“[The United States] has been a very good neighbor, [Obama] has been a very good neighbor,” Nieto said through an interpreter. “I would also like to recognize his administration, the decisive support favoring migrants.”
Immigration, usually on the agenda when U.S. and Mexican leaders meet, took on additional significance at Friday’s meeting — hours after Republican presidential nominee Trump highlighted the issue at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
In his remarks, Trump reiterated his intention to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out crime, drugs and undocumented immigrants — a plan that’s been roundly criticized by the Obama administration, Democrats and some Republicans.
“This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse — this vision of violence and chaos everywhere doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people,” Obama said of Trump’s comments. “We are not going to make good decisions based on fears that don’t have a basis in fact.”
Nieto kept his response diplomatic, saying he respects both Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“The Mexican government will be observing with great interest the electoral process,” he said, “But it will not give its opinion — it will not get involved.”
Nieto has in the past unfavorably compared Trump to dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini — and has said there’s “no way” his government will build a border wall and pay for its construction, as Trump has advocated.
Obama said he didn’t watch the GOP convention or Trump’s speech, but read about the four-day event in various news coverage.
“The Republicans had an opportunity this week to share their vision with the country and emphasize those issues they thought were important. I’m going to let the American people judge how persuasive their arguments were,” he said.
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