MEXICO CITY – Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Mexico got a tongue-lashing Thursday, with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden calling it “dangerous” and a former Mexican president dropping the F-bomb against his border wall plan.
Speaking during a visit to Mexico City, Biden said the message expressed about Mexicans and Mexico in the U.S. election campaign is “disturbing,” but that this episode of “xenophobia” will pass.
“Some of the rhetoric coming from some presidential candidates of the other team are I think dangerous, damaging and incredibly ill-advised,” Biden said at a meeting with top Mexican government officials.
“But here’s what I’m here to tell you: They do not, they do not, they do not represent the view of the vast majority of the American people,” he said. “This too shall pass. … We have gone through these episodes of xenophobia but they have always been overcome.”
Trump has angered Mexico from the start of his candidacy by declaring that the country was sending rapists across the border and that he would force the neighboring government to pay for a giant wall to keep illegal migrants out.
Former President Vicente Fox, who led Mexico from 2000 to 2006, joined the chorus of outrage, telling the U.S. television network Fusion: “I am not going to pay for that fucking wall. He should pay for it. He’s got the money.”
The billionaire real estate mogul hit back on Twitter, writing: “Vicente Fox horribly used the F word when discussing the wall. He must apologize! If I did that there would be a uproar!”
Another former Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, also lashed out at Trump’s wall idea earlier this month.
“Mexican people, we are not going to pay any single cent for such a stupid wall. And it’s going to be completely useless,” Calderón, who was president from 2006-2012, told CNBC.
President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has called Trump’s comments about Mexicans “prejudiced and absurd.”
The Republican front-runner has also clashed with Pope Francis over the immigration issue after the pontiff, following a trip to Mexico this month, said that anyone who “only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian.”
Trump called Francis’ comments “disgraceful” but he later softened his tone, saying he had a “lot of respect” for the first Latin American pope.
At the end of Biden’s speech at the high-level U.S.-Mexico economic dialogue, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray praised his “inspirational” words while Foreign Minister Claudia Ruíz Massieu said the two nations share values “to make this region the most productive and prosperous in the world.”
Biden held talks with President Peña Nieto later Thursday.
Tough election issue
Immigration is a hot-button issue in the U.S. presidential race, which features two Republican candidates who are sons of Cuban immigrants: senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. But both senators, who are Trump’s closest competitors, have taken a hard stance on the issue.
While Rubio backed immigration reform in 2013, he has since hardened his position and now competes with Cruz for support from conservatives demanding more deportations for the 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States.
Biden told the Mexican officials that he hoped that President Barack Obama’s immigration reform, blocked by Republicans in Congress, can still win approval.
Circumventing Congress, Obama announced measures in November 2014 to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. The Supreme Court has agreed to review his executive order, after a lower court blocked it.
Both candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have vowed to pass reforms that will give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
The Latino vote has become crucial in U.S. elections as Hispanics are now the biggest minority group in the country, surpassing African-Americans.