Report: Border deal was made
Trump says immigration accord includes provisions that will be revealed soon
Mexican negotiators convinced President Donald Trump to back down from his tariff threat by agreeing to an unprecedented crackdown on Central American migrants and by accepting more expansive measures in Mexico if the initial efforts don’t deliver quick results, according to officials from both governments and documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
The enforcement measures Mexico has promised include a militarized national guard deployment at the Guatemalan border, thousands of additional migrant arrests per week, and the acceptance of busloads of asylum-seekers turned away from the U.S. border daily, all geared toward cutting the migrant flow dramatically in coming weeks. The measures, described by officials from both sides and included in Mexican negotiating documents reviewed by the Post, appear to be more substantial than what the Mexican
government has attempted thus far during the precipitous rise in migration to the U.S. border.
Since heralding the pact in a Friday night tweet, Trump has fumed at criticism that he capitulated to Mexico and that his accord amounts to a series of previously agreed-to measures.
Trump officials on Monday described the accord as a breakthrough, and the president considered Mexico’s plan aggressive enough to suspend his tariff threat even though he liked the idea of imposing the duties over howls from members of his own party.
U.S. officials say they were particularly impressed with Mexico’s pledge to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops to its border region with Guatemala. Mexico described its plan to U.S. officials as “the first time in recent history that Mexico has decided to take operational control of its southern border as a priority,” according to Mexican government documents.
Such language amounted to the kind of rhetorical shift Trump officials were looking for from the leftist government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who last year dismissed immigration enforcement in Mexico as “dirty work” at the behest of the United States.
Bristling at criticism of the pact, Trump also said Monday that his deal with Mexico has “fully signed and documented” provisions that have not yet been publicly disclosed, hinting at a regional plan under discussion during the negotiations that would give the United States the ability to deport most Central American asylum-seekers.
“It will be revealed in the not too distant future,” Trump wrote in early morning tweets, describing the measures as “an important part” of the deal with Mexico and “one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years.”
On Monday afternoon at the White House, Trump said the agreement has been locked in and is something that will be announced very soon: “It’s all done. It was all done because of the tariffs and the relationship with Mexico . ... Mexico is doing more for the United States right now than Congress. Tremendous problem at the border.”
Pressed by reporters on Tuesday for proof of his deal with Mexico, Trump pulled a piece of paper from his coat pocket and said it was the deal. He declined to show reporters what was on the paper.
Most aslyum-seekers who reach U.S. soil now are processed and released into the U.S. interior to await court proceedings, something that can take months or years. The proposal would make asylum-seekers instead apply for protection in the first foreign country they reach after departing their homeland, potentially allowing the United States to send Guatemalans back to Mexico and Hondurans and Salvadorans back to Guatemala. Department of Homeland Security officials were in Guatemala last month discussing such a plan.
Mexico has repeatedly said that it will not agree to a “safe third” accord that would require it to take in U.S.-bound asylum-seekers transiting its territory. But Mexican officials have been willing to negotiate something that would function in a similar way, if responsibility for asylum-seekers were to be shared among other nations in the region.
They say such asylum changes would require approval from Mexican lawmakers, and Trump said in a tweet Monday he would impose tariffs if the regional asylum overhaul doesn’t pass: “If for any reason approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!” he warned.
The accord offers clear political advantages for Trump. By conditioning the tariff threat on sharp reductions in migration flow, the deal has essentially tasked Mexico with delivering the results that the Trump administration has been unable to achieve on its own. And if Mexico’s efforts don’t pan out, Trump can blame the López Obrador government and revive his tariff threat to elicit a stronger response.
If unauthorized migration levels fall as a result of more Mexican enforcement, Trump will be able to take credit, emboldening his bullying approach to diplomacy.
Trump’s frustration with Democratic opposition to his “border wall” has been compounded by the record influx of Central American families and children during the past year, but the president’s tariff ultimatum alarmed Mexican officials — more than previous threats to close the border — because it conditioned vital commerce and trade on immigration enforcement.
U.S. authorities detained more than 144,000 migrants along the Mexico border last month, the highest level in 13 years, and nearly double the number taken into custody in February. The United States is on pace to make more than a million arrests at the border this year.
On June 5, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Ambassador Martha Barcena met with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House attorney Pat Cipollone and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to hash out a deal.
The U.S. negotiators told the Mexican delegation that the immigration issue was the most important thing to Trump’s presidency, and they needed to take meaningful, concrete actions with measurable goals.
Mexican officials in March had pledged to increase the size of their security deployment along the Guatemala border, but the proposal for 6,000 troops was far larger than the contingent to which they had previously committed. They also presented a detailed plan for more checkpoints, detention centers and ramped-up deportations — all aimed at preventing migrants from moving north and at deterring others from trying.
The Mexican officials said their enforcement measures would reduce U.S. border arrest totals closer to 50,000 per month by October, with the goal of reducing migration to where it was in mid-2017, when detentions dropped to their lowest level since the early 1970s.
The U.S. side said Trump wanted the numbers to fall faster and further. Mexican officials agreed to more, while also urging the United States to add more immigration judges and process asylum claims faster. Mexican officials noted that the legal and administrative dysfunction of the U.S. immigration system was not Mexico’s responsibility.
President Donald Trump shows reporters Tuesday a piece of paper that he said contained part of a secret agreement with Mexico on immigration.