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Mexico Spends $50 Million to Aid Consulates in US Amid Deportation Fears

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Mexican consulates across the US are launching legal assistance centers to defend the rights of those fearing deportation in the wake of the stringent measures enacted by the Trump administration to root out illegal immigration.

Tension between the two countries has increased since new US President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders that paved the way for a border wall, expanded the pool of immigrants who are to be prioritized for deportation and called for a newly expanded immigration enforcement body to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

The new guidelines allow federal agents to cooperate with local and state law enforcement agencies to more effectively crackdown on unauthorized immigration.

Rather than paying for the wall that Trump vowed to build on the US-Mexican border during his election campaign, Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto gave about $50 million to 50 Mexican consulates in America to guarantee protection for migrants.

Mexico's consul general in San Diego told reporters at a conference that all help offered will align with US and Mexican laws. Lawyers and advocates at the centers will educate undocumented immigrants on their legal rights in the US, as they are protected by both the 14th Amendment and federal statute.

"What changes today is that we are prioritizing legal matters over everything. Previously, we didn't have the need to seek so much legal support for our people," Mexican Consul General in Miami Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia said Friday.

"But now, we need to protect them against an eventual deportation."

According to Zabalgoitia, the number of calls and visits to the consulate has increased dramatically over the past couple of months, with people standing in line to receive assistance on legal documents.

Mexican consulates are forming partnerships with nonprofit groups and immigration clinics and reaching out to private law firms interested in taking on pro-bono work.

Foreign Minister of Mexico Luis Videgaray referred to the effort as "a moral imperative" as he visited New York City's consulate on Friday.

Mexican diplomats in Houston, where half a million Mexican immigrants live, said requests for Mexican birth certificates at the consulate are up 50% since Trump announced the severe measures.