The Washington Post

Trump claims win over Mex­ico

MI­GRANT PLEDGES ARE TIED TO TRADE Crit­ics doubt agree­ment will end bor­der cri­sis

- BY FELICIA SONMEZ, MIKE DEBONIS AND NICK MIROFF

Pres­i­dent Trump and his al­lies on Sun­day de­clared vic­tory in the tar­iffs stand­off with Mex­ico af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­peared to have se­cured sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ments from the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment to stem the flow of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants at the U.S. bor­der.

The agree­ment gave Trump fresh am­mu­ni­tion against his crit­ics, who have pointed out that his con­tro­ver­sial ne­go­ti­at­ing tac­tics have yielded far fewer re­sults than promised on mul­ti­ple is­sues dur­ing his time in of­fice.

Whether the deal will greatly re­duce the num­ber of mi­grants en­ter­ing the United States re­mains to be seen. But it nonethe­less rep­re­sents a se­ri­ous ef­fort by Mex­ico to do more on an is­sue cen­tral to Trump’s re­elec­tion cam­paign af­ter he threat­ened to im­pose a 5 per­cent across-the­board tar­iff on one of the United States’ top trad­ing part­ners.

Mex­ico an­nounced Fri­day night that it would im­ple­ment “strong mea­sures” to re­duce the flow of mi­grants across its ter­ri­tory to­ward the south­ern U.S. bor­der, in­clud­ing the un­prece­dented de­ploy­ment of thou­sands of Mex­i­can na­tional guard troops. It also agreed to ex­pand a pro­gram al­low­ing Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants to stay in Mex­ico while they await the ad­ju­di­ca­tion of their asy­lum claims.

“The pres­i­dent put a charge in his whole di­a­logue with Mex­ico with the tar­iff threats, brought them to the ta­ble,” Act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kevin McAleenan said in an in­ter­view on “Fox News Sun­day.” “The for­eign min­is­ter of Mex­ico ar­rived within hours. He ar­rived the next day with real pro­pos­als on the ta­ble. This is the first time we’ve heard any­thing like this kind of num­ber of law en­force­ment be­ing de­ployed in Mex­ico to ad­dress mi­gra­tions.”

With ar­rests at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der soar­ing and Trump lash­ing out — at Democrats, for­eign gov­ern­ments and U.S. laws — Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials are un­der enor­mous pres­sure to halt the mi­gra­tion boom. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to de­ter mi­gra­tion have not worked, ei­ther be­ing shot down in the courts or fail­ing to get through Congress. And Mex­i­can of­fi­cials brushed off some of the pres­i­dent’s ear­lier de­mands.

Trump’s threat to im­pose tar­iffs on Mex­ico to gain lev­er­age in im­mi­gra­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions drew crit­i­cism from law­mak­ers in both par­ties, who called it a dan­ger­ous es­ca­la­tion that could dam­age the U.S. econ­omy.

But in some morn­ing tweets, Trump said that Mex­ico “was not be­ing co­op­er­a­tive on the Bor­der” be­fore the deal reached Fri­day. Now, he said, “I have full con­fi­dence, es­pe­cially af­ter speak­ing to their Pres­i­dent yes­ter­day, that they will be very co­op­er­a­tive and want to get the job prop­erly done.”

Trump said he could move to reim­pose tar­iffs if Mex­ico doesn’t fol­low through on its prom­ises. Some as­pects of the deal, he added, re­main to be an­nounced — “one in par­tic­u­lar,” he said, “will be an­nounced at the ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

The pres­i­dent’s tweet seemed to hint at a pos­si­ble com­po­nent of the deal that would trans­form asy­lum rules across the re­gion and make ap­pli­cants seek refuge in the first coun­try they reach. Such an ac­cord would al­low the United States to de­port most asy­lum seek­ers from Gu­atemala to Mex­ico, and those from Hon­duras and El Sal­vador would be flown to Gu­atemala.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials think such an ar­range­ment would lead to a dra­matic drop in mi­grants ar­riv­ing each month at the U.S. bor­der. Those mi­grants are gen­er­ally re­leased from cus­tody if they have a child with them.

Democrats crit­i­cized the agree­ment as more ev­i­dence of the pres­i­dent’s anti-im­mi­gra­tion agenda while ques­tion­ing how much im­pact it would have.

“Th­ese are agree­ments that Mex­ico had al­ready made, in some cases months ago,” former con­gress­man Beto O’Rourke, who is run­ning for pres­i­dent, said in an in­ter­view on ABC’s “This Week.” “They might have ac­cel­er­ated the timetable, but by and large the pres­i­dent achieved noth­ing ex­cept to jeop­ar­dize the most im­por­tant trad­ing re­la­tion­ship that the United States of Amer­ica has.”

Im­mi­grant rights ad­vo­cates ar­gued Sun­day that while it was im­por­tant that the United States and Mex­ico pledged to in­vest re­sources in Cen­tral Amer­ica, the deal fails to ad­dress the root cause of the prob­lem, which is poverty and vi­o­lence in the re­gion that the mi­grants are flee­ing.

“In gen­eral, I don’t think that this agree­ment stems the flow,” Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum, said in an in­ter­view. “The si­t­u­a­tion in Cen­tral Amer­ica is pretty dire. There are no ex­am­ples in mod­ern his­tory of us be­ing able to en­force our way out of a mi­gra­tion cri­sis like this.”

But those who sup­port a harder line on im­mi­gra­tion said the agree­ment was a pos­i­tive sign.

“I think Mex­ico sees that our two coun­tries have a shared in­ter­est in clamp­ing down on this,” said Mark Kriko­rian, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, a think tank that fa­vors re­stricted im­mi­gra­tion. “We’ll see in a cou­ple of months whether it makes a dif­fer­ence, but I think it can. I’m cau­tiously op­ti­mistic.”

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say the deal, if fully im­ple­mented, rep­re­sents a break­through in their pres­sure cam­paign to get Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­drés Manuel López Obrador to take a more ro­bust en­force­ment ap­proach.

In par­tic­u­lar, the pledge to de­ploy 6,000 na­tional guard forces in south­ern Mex­ico could make it more dif­fi­cult for smug­glers to con­tinue trans­port­ing groups of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants on buses with lit­tle in­ter­fer­ence from au­thor­i­ties.

Mex­ico has also given as­sur­ances it will ex­pand im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters and bol­ster de­por­ta­tion ef­forts.

The newly formed na­tional guard was cre­ated by López Obrador pri­mar­ily in re­sponse to do­mes­tic pres­sure to re­duce crime and Mex­ico’s soar­ing homi­cide rate, so com­mit­ting those forces to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment — which López Obrador de­scribed last year dur­ing his cam­paign as do­ing “dirty work” for the United States — amounts to a sig­nif­i­cant con­ces­sion, and has gen­er­ated crit­i­cism.

Mex­ico had al­ready promised to use the na­tional guard, but the de­ploy­ment size is much larger than what the gov­ern­ment had of­fered pre­vi­ously.

U.S. of­fi­cials also view the full ex­pan­sion of the MPP pro­gram, known in­for­mally as “Re­main in Mex­ico,” as a dif­fer­ence-maker, al­low­ing them to potentiall­y re­quire thou­sands more asy­lum seek­ers to wait out­side U.S. ter­ri­tory while their claims for pro­tec­tion are fully ad­ju­di­cated, a process that can take years. Mex­ico to date has been re­sist­ing U.S. ef­forts to ex­pand the pro­gram across the en­tire bor­der.

The MPP pro­gram has so far sur­vived court chal­lenges, but a panel of fed­eral judges in Cal­i­for­nia has raised doubts about its le­gal­ity, and Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have been brac­ing for an in­junc­tion that could halt the pro­gram.

For U.S. of­fi­cials, the ques­tion is whether the agree­ment will bring the rapid re­duc­tion in unau­tho­rized bor­der cross­ings that Trump is de­mand­ing, and whether it will be sus­tained once the pres­i­dent’s threats abate.

Over the week­end, the deal prompted con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans to call for ac­tion on the United States-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment, Trump’s new North Amer­i­can trade deal, which has yet to be ap­proved by Congress.

Sen. Rob Port­man (R-Ohio), a Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee mem­ber and former U.S. trade representa­tive, said in a state­ment Fri­day that he hoped the mi­gra­tion ac­cord would “pave the way for the House and Se­nate to move quickly to pass the U.S.-Mex­ico-Canada Trade Agree­ment.”

The White House took a step this month to be­gin the process of con­gres­sional ap­proval, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (DCalif.) warned as re­cently as Wed­nes­day that ap­proval was in doubt in the House un­less sev­eral con­cerns about the ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment are ad­dressed.

“We hope to have a path to yes to get it done,” she told re­porters. “But you have to have en­force­ment as part of the agree­ment, not as part of a side­bar let­ter or bills that we might pass in each coun­try — part of the agree­ment.”

A se­nior Demo­cratic aide, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to de­scribe in­ter­nal con­ver­sa­tions, said Sun­day that the mi­gra­tion deal was “to­tally ir­rel­e­vant” to lead­ers’ con­cerns about the USMCA.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, mean­while, ap­peared re­lieved in talk­show ap­pear­ances Sun­day.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had spo­ken out against Trump’s tar­iff threats, called the deal “a big win for both sides” and said it sent a mes­sage to China, whose lead­ers are wran­gling with Trump over trade.

With an ap­par­ently suc­cess­ful out­come in hand, Trump still couldn’t avoid over­selling the deal. In a tweet Satur­day morn­ing, the pres­i­dent claimed that Mex­ico had agreed to “IM­ME­DI­ATELY BE­GIN BUY­ING LARGE QUAN­TI­TIES OF AGRI­CUL­TURAL PROD­UCT FROM OUR GREAT PA­TRIOT FARM­ERS!”

But Mex­ico’s am­bas­sador to the United States, Martha Bárcena, de­clined to con­firm that ac­count. In an in­ter­view on CBS’s “Face the Na­tion,” she said only that agri­cul­tural trade “is go­ing to grow with­out tar­iffs and with USMCA rat­i­fi­ca­tion.”

“But there was no trans­ac­tion that was signed off on as part of this deal, is what I un­der­stand you’re say­ing,” host Mar­garet Bren­nan asked. “You’re just talk­ing about trade.”

Bárcena nod­ded a few times be­fore an­swer­ing. “I’m talk­ing about trade, and I am ab­so­lutely cer­tain that the trade in agri­cul­tural goods would in­crease dra­mat­i­cally in the next few months,” she said.

Later, in a tweet, Bárcena main­tained that she “did not con­tra­dict” Trump on the is­sue — un­der­scor­ing Mex­i­can of­fi­cials’ hes­i­tance to ap­pear crit­i­cal of the pres­i­dent so soon af­ter avoid­ing a ma­jor trade war.

 ?? MARCO UGARTE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? Mi­grants cross the Suchi­ate River, from Gu­atemala to Mex­ico, near Ci­u­dad Hi­dalgo. Ar­rests of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans are soar­ing at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, and top lead­ers are try­ing to re­duce the flow north.
MARCO UGARTE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS Mi­grants cross the Suchi­ate River, from Gu­atemala to Mex­ico, near Ci­u­dad Hi­dalgo. Ar­rests of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans are soar­ing at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, and top lead­ers are try­ing to re­duce the flow north.

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