President Trump’s threat on March 29 to close the southern border and halt all trade if Mexico doesn’t step up to the plate ruffled more than the left’s ultrasensitive feathers. It also had Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador scrambling to respond. On April 1, Obrador told the media that he had every intention of helping the United States with the immigration issues on his side of the fence:
“Obviously, we have to help because Central American migrants pass through our territory and we have to bring order to this migration, make sure it’s legal,” Obrador said. “That’s what we’re doing. But serenely, calmly, without a commotion and with great prudence and responsibility.”
Trump made it clear he was serious. Speaking to the media, the president said he’s “not playing games” anymore, closing the border and ending trade if Mexico doesn’t stop the immigration flood into the United States. His threats are not empty. Already, he said, he has canceled aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to the tune of $500 million-plus in funding and other forms of assistance.
Preventing trade with Mexico will substantially hurt our southern neighbor since about 80% of Mexican imports flow into the United States. No wonder the Mexican president doesn’t want to risk such a loss. Obrador, meeting with reporters, said, “I prefer love and peace.” Really?
A Dangerous Contradiction?
This peace-loving, cooperative Mexican president is much different from the man who campaigned to send all refugees to the United States. “And soon, very soon — after the victory of our movement — we will defend all the migrants in the American continent and all the migrants in the world,” Obrador said, according to Mexican outlet El Universal. Immigrants, he added, “must leave their towns and find a life in the United States.”
The U.S. border security system has reached its “breaking point,” according to Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). He estimates that 900,000 people were caught in March trying to cross illegally, which is more than a 140% increase from last year and the most it’s ever been since 2008. The situation has become dire; CBP facilities are so overcrowded that the agency has started releasing migrants caught at the border into the United States.
Is Obrador serious about helping, or is this a stall tactic to smooth over relations? Mexico did start issuing temporary humanitarian visas to migrant caravan travelers, providing priority to the elderly and children. At first, these visas were handed out in abundance, but the process had to be dialed back after applications surged. There has been no word on whether Mexico will decide on a limit for the number of visas to bestow. Mexico also said it would provide transportation for immigrants to return to Central American countries, but on a voluntary basis.
While these programs will help sort out the hordes of illegals swarming the borders, what will they do to prevent migrants from invading the United States illegally, one of Trump’s chief complaints? Will a Mexican president who has stated his desire to flood the United States with migrants really make a concentrated effort to stop illegals from crossing? And will Obrador’s overtures and actions be deemed credible enough by Trump to dissuade him from closing the border and halting trade?