On May 30, President Trump threatened Mexico with a 5 percent tariff on all imported goods which would gradually increase unless Mexico dealt with the flow of illegal migrants into the U.S. The looming tariffs were enough to push Mexico into a joint declaration on June 7 where Mexico agreed to “take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration.”
After the upcoming tariffs were dropped in exchange, immigrations officials and even President Trump himself were skeptical whether Mexico would abide by the joint declaration. On the day he approved the deal, President Trump noted, “We’ll see if it works.”
However, now it is clear that Mexico is keeping its word. On June 17, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard emphasized that Mexico will complete its deployment of 6,000 National Guard members along its southern border by the end of this week. He also remarked that an additional 825 immigration agents would be posted on the southern border.
This deployment does not appear to be just for show. Mexico’s National Migration Institute, a unit of the Mexican government that deals with immigration, announced on June 16 that 791 illegal migrants have been detained by already deployed National Guard members. The National Migration Institute underlined that these apprehensions are simply “the first actions,” an indication that Mexico is committed to effectively stopping illegal migration in the future.
These steps imply that Mexico may uphold other parts of the joint declaration, such as the provision that U.S. asylum seekers “will be rapidly returned to Mexico” to seek adjudication.
Whereas President Trump’s threat of tariffs prompted an immediate reaction from Mexico to stem the flow of illegal migration, it remains, without a doubt, another victory for President Trump.
This victory comes at an important time when illegal migration from Mexico to the U.S. has been surging. In May alone, about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border patrols on the U.S.-Mexico border, representing a 32 percent increase from April.
Much of the overall increase in illegal immigration to the U.S. is due to the rise of illegal migration from Central America. Border apprehensions of Central Americans from the Northern Triangle, the region including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have tripled from 54,000 in 2007 to 165,000 in 2017, even exceeding border apprehensions from Mexico for the first time in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
Given that Mexico’s commitment to the joint declaration will primarily affect immigration from the Northern Triangle, President Trump demonstrates that he is targeting one of the most pressing regions contributing to illegal immigration in the U.S.
In addition, Border Patrol has recently been overwhelmed with the arrival of new migrants. It has become plagued with overcrowded facilities, delays in immigration processing, and sanitation issues. The reduction in migration inflows will allow Customs and Border Protection to build more necessary facilities to deal with those pressing issues.
At least in terms of foreign policy with Mexico, President Trump is demonstrating that he can utilize what is at his disposal to push for “America First.”