President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday that Mexico will safeguard the human rights Central American migrants who are trying to obtain asylum in the United States.
"We want to maintain a relationship of understanding and friendship with the United States government, but at the same time defend the principles of Mexico's foreign policy," he said during his daily morning press conference.
Amid pressure from Washington, the Mexican government agreed Thursday to provide temporary sanctuary for third-country nationals while they await adjudication of their US asylum applications.
Mexico will approach the migrant situation within the "framework" of respect for human rights, Lopez Obrador said.
The president was joined in front of reporters by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who stressed that Mexico's willingness to harbor the asylum-seekers did not constitute a de-facto "safe third country" agreement with the US.
Such an accord - Washington already has one with Canada - would designate Mexico as a safe country for asylum seekers and would make it difficult if not impossible for any asylum seeker on Mexican territory to apply for asylum in the US.
Signing a safe third country pact with the US is not under consideration, Ebrard said.
Given the unilateral decision by the US to expel the asylum applicants, Mexico's only options are to deport the migrants or allow them to remain on a temporary basis, he said.
"It is not the intention of Mexico to deport these people. If that were the case, it would have been done already," the foreign secretary said.
Next Monday, he said, Mexico will set forth a "definitive" position on the issue that will not involve deportations.
Mexican officials say that the northwestern border city of Tijuana is currently harboring 4,000 Central Americans who were part of the caravans that set out in October from Honduras and Guatemala with the aim of reaching the US.