President Donald Trump has announced that a deal has been struck with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration through the U.S. southern border. Hot on the heels of trade tariff threats, it appears the Mexican government is willing to back up its formerly empty rhetoric in order to protect its export economy. Are these measures going to be enough to bring down the numbers of people illegally crossing the border into the U.S., or are they just empty promises being proffered in the hope that “normalcy” will resume after the 2020 election?
The tariffs – starting at 5% and then rising – were due to begin on Monday June 10, and would have been a painful reminder to all Mexican companies that their government was failing in its most important role. Every dollar lost would have been a hammer blow to an economy that survives on tight margins.
The eleventh-hour deal was, of course, announced via Twitter. President Trump wrote:
“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended. Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to… stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States. Details of the agreement will be released shortly by the State Department. Thank you!”
The Nuts and Bolts
A Joint Declaration, published by the State Department, highlights commitments that have been agreed between the two nations.
Mexican Enforcement Surge: The Mexican government has agreed to deploy its National Guard to help manage migrant flows; special attention will be paid to its southern border. The country will also work harder to break up human trafficking rings and begin fuller information sharing with regards to its shared border with the U.S.
Migrant Protection Protocols: Anyone who crosses the southern U.S. border to claim asylum will be taken back to Mexico while their case is assessed. During their stay in Mexico, they will be offered healthcare, jobs, and education. The U.S. commits to speeding up the adjudication process.
Ongoing Regional Strategy: The U.S. and Mexico will take the lead in helping Central American nations become more stable economically through the Comprehensive Development Plan, in order to tackle the root causes of immigration.
The document also outlined what further actions may be taken under the agreement. It says:
“Both parties also agree that, in the event the measures adopted do not have the expected results, they will take further actions. Therefore, the United States and Mexico will continue their discussions on the terms of additional understandings to address irregular migrant flows and asylum issues, to be completed and announced within 90 days, if necessary.”
Is this a signal that President Trump doesn’t think Mexico will play a fair game?
The Danger Zone
It is easy for a country to make promises that are difficult for outsiders to measure. Mexico may well have agreed to all the conditions set out by the negotiators with no intention of actually doing anything. On the one hand, it has the threat of tariffs that could well topple its economy; on the other, it would take a radical restructuring of how the country operates to stem the flow of migration. It may be that Mexico will avoid making tough decisions and just try to ride out the storm in the hopes of a 2020 upset for President Trump.
If Donald Trump fails to win the next election, all bets and deals are off. A Democrat President will not insist that Mexico control the flow of migrants, nor will they impose tariffs if the Mexican government fails in its commitments. The Joint Declaration states that all measures will be reviewed within a 90-day period; we may see some action, but it could just be smoke and mirrors from a country that has never taken its responsibility as a good neighbor seriously.
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