Mexican diplomats blast U.S. spying

The Mexican ambassador to the U.S. reacted sharply Friday to reports that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on his government, saying that would be “absolutely outrageous and unacceptable.”

Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora also answered questions about illegal immigration and economic policy during a meeting with editors and reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Mundo Hispanico.

But Mora’s strongest comments came when he was asked about the NSA spying scandal. Recent news media reports say the NSA hacked then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s email account and spied on current President Enrique Peña Nieto during his campaign last year.

Mexico has summoned the U.S. ambassador and demanded an investigation. Brazil, France and Germany have also reacted strongly to similar spying reports leaked to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“We have stated very clearly that — if true — these practices are illegal, illegitimate and unacceptable, particularly among friends, neighbors and partners,” Mora said. “This is an issue of the respect [given] to a sovereign state and its private communications.”

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Friday evening that the federal government is “examining whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state; how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners; and what further guiding principles or constraints might be appropriate for our efforts.”

“The United States takes the concerns of the international community seriously and has been regularly consulting with affected partners,” Hayden said. “Given the close partnership between Mexico and the United States, matters related to Mexico are part of the ongoing review.”

Mora met with the newspapers Friday to highlight Mexico-U.S. relations and efforts to strengthen the North American economy. He predicted the region will be “the powerhouse in economic terms in the world looking toward the future.”

Mora also responded to questions about illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexican border. For years, the U.S. government had been reporting a steep drop in arrests along the southwest border. But that has recently begun to change as the nation’s economy has improved. By August, 11 months into fiscal year 2013, federal authorities had already made nearly 27,000 more apprehensions along the southwest border than during all of fiscal year 2012, a 7 percent increase.

But Mora said fewer Mexicans have been migrating to the U.S. as Mexico’s economy has also improved.

“Net migration from Mexico is either zero or negative,” he said.

Many illegal immigrants entering the U.S. are coming from countries in Central and South America and they are traveling through Mexico, Mora said. Mexico is working to tighten security on its southern border, he said.

“We have a very strong and very comprehensive plan to improve the circumstances on our southern border, which is essentially a very open border,” Mora said. “But we are now implementing a major strategy that deals with infrastructure and with policy on how you actually consider those migrants coming from Central America into Mexico.”

Moments later, Mexican Undersecretary for North America Sergio Alcocer raised concerns about the application of a U.S. immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities. The fingerprint-sharing program helps identify illegal immigrants when they are booked into local jails. Alcocer talked about the possibility that people could be deported to Mexico in connection with the program and separated from their U.S.-born children.

“The challenge here,” he said, “is that these children don’t get lost in the system.”

This year, the Obama administration quietly issued a controversial directive that says federal authorities should give special consideration to parents when deciding whether to detain and deport them. It also would permit some deportees to return to the U.S. to attend court proceedings involving their parental rights.