On Thursday evening President Trump took to Twitter to announce a new policy of escalating tariffs on imports from Mexico, “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP.”
There has been speculation in conservative media about such a move, and the potential that it may be accompanied by additional measures, to be instituted in early June. The Washington Post seems to have gotten wind of it earlier on Thursday. Fox News describes it as an “abrupt” announcement, however, seeming to suggest that it may have been unexpected in Washington.
On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied,..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
As Trump tweeted, the initial 5% tariff will begin on June 10. A White House statement issued shortly after his tweet provided additional details on the planned escalation, if Mexico doesn’t show satisfactory progress in stemming the migrant flow.
If the crisis persists, however, the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019.
The White House statement indicates the tariff level will remains at 25% “unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.”
That the president is playing hardball is evident in this feature of the plan: it explicitly encourages companies with facilities located in Mexico to move to the United States. Their import tax situation will be favorable: “Companies that relocate to the United States will not pay the Tariffs or be affected in any way.”
The White House vows to ensure legal guest workers will have no difficulty crossing the border as they normally do, saying that workers “who come to our country through the legal admissions process, including those working on farms, ranches, and in other businesses, will be allowed easy passage.”
According to Fox, these are the compliance criteria the administration is looking at:
Specifically, White House sources told Fox News that Mexico would need to step up security efforts on the border, target transnational smugglers, crack down on illicit bus lines and align with the U.S. on a workable asylum policy. Mexico could use certain so-called choke points on the southern border to curb illegal migration sharply, according to the sources.
In the White House statement, Trump minces no words taking Mexico to task for failing to halt the growing stream of migrants:
Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States. Mexico has very strong immigration laws and could easily halt the illegal flow of migrants, including by returning them to their home countries. Additionally, Mexico could quickly and easily stop illegal aliens from coming through its southern border with Guatemala.
Wednesday, May 29, in fact, saw the apprehension of the largest number of illegal border-crossers ever at a single time. In the Rio Grande Valley Sector near El Paso, U.S. Customs and Border Protection caught 1,036 migrants in one place — as compared to apprehending 100 or sometimes 200 at a time. The total apprehensions for the entire day were even higher.
It is not clear how Mexico’s socialist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will handle the new pressure. López Obrador, known to his constituents as “AMLO,” has been a mixture of pragmatism and defiance in dealing with requests for cooperation on the migrant problem. The AMLO government has continued to offer asylum and assistance to Central American migrants seeking to claim them, but for the most part makes little effort to strengthen its southern border defenses or repatriate migrants who refuse offers from Mexico and insist on proceeding to the United States. In the cases of the massive caravans organized by political activists, Mexico has cooperated less with the U.S. and more with the activists, giving safe passage to fleets of charter buses and allowing illegal use of the trains for transport.
During his political campaign in 2018, as J.E. Dyer reported, AMLO vowed to “defend the right of migrants to seek life in the United States.” He’s a far-left socialist who aligns with radical NGOs and transnational activists on the rights of migrants at national borders. AMLO criticized the U.S., among other things, for an “arrogant attitude” in deporting migrants.
It’s not just Central American migrants whose “rights” López Obrador promised to uphold. He was quoted in heroic terms by El Universal during the campaign:
And soon, very soon, at the triumph of our movement we will defend migrants from all over the American continent and all the migrants of the world, who, by necessity, have to leave their villages to seek life in the United States; it is a human right that we are going to defend.
Although the AMLO government has supported Trump’s request that asylum seekers be allowed to stay in Mexico while their cases are being processed, that only slows down the flood. The expectation is still that the migrants will either end up in the U.S., or eventually be deported at American expense.
Trump’s escalating tariff schedule is definitely an interruption of the plan. Activists in the U.S. will probably rush to court to seek an injunction against it on some basis, although once again, Trump lays out how he is using an emergency power he has in black and white under statute law (the International Emergency Economic Powers Act). His White House statement expresses hope for prompt cooperation from Mexico:
We have confidence that Mexico can and will act swiftly to help the United States stop this long-term, dangerous, and deeply unfair problem. The United States has been very good to Mexico for many years. We are now asking that Mexico immediately do its fair share to stop the use of its territory as a conduit for illegal immigration into our country.
We therefore look forward to, and appreciate, the swift and effective actions that we hope Mexico will immediately install.
We at LU look forward to seeing how this turns out.