Mexico’s government says it will send 6,000 troops to its southern border with Guatemala in a crackdown on the unprecedented surge of Central American migrants hoping to seek asylum in the US. The announcement came ahead of a threat by President Trump to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports starting June 10th unless Mexico further tightens controls on immigration. The deal was reached at the end of three days of negotiations which saw Washington demand a crackdown on Central American migrants.
The initial announcement of tariffs warned that if Mexico did not do more to curb the current immigration issue, tariffs would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September and reach a permanent level of 25% by October. According to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrants taken into custody reached a 13 year high in May, with more than 144,000 migrants taken into custody after crossing the Southern border. The threat of tariffs which would have hurt the US economy, would have been more damaging to Mexico’s economy. According to the Office of the US Trade Representative, US imports of goods from Mexico totaled $346.5 billion in 2018 and includes cars and machinery as well as agricultural products. If the tariffs had gone into effect any US companies will have to decide whether to eat the cost or pass them on to American consumers.
Mexican officials have reportedly reached a deal with the White House that would require asylum seekers to seek refuge in the countries they first cross into. Under a joint agreement released by State Department officials, Mexico will assist the United States in curbing migration across the border by deploying its National Guard troops through the country, especially its southern border. The deal also imposes a new program called Migrant Protection Protocols, allowing U.S. immigration enforcement officials to send Central American migrants to Mexico as their asylum claims are pending.
Mexico says those migrants will be offered jobs, health care and education, though critics question how safe migrants will be as they await the conclusion of their claims. The agreement says Mexican authorities will work to dismantle human smuggling operations as well. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the National Guard deployment would start on Monday, June 10th– the same day the proposed tariffs were set to begin. The National Guard force was recently established and has not gotten up and running, with estimates of full operations to be underway by 2021.
In a joint declaration released by the US state department, the two countries said Mexico would take “unprecedented steps” to curb irregular migration and human trafficking. The US did not get one of its reported key demands, which would have required Mexico to take in asylum seekers heading for the US and process their claims on its own soil. Both countries pledged to “strengthen bilateral co-operation” over border security, including “coordinated actions” and information sharing.
Mexican authorities have dramatically stepped up law enforcement pressure against Central American migrants in recent days in an effort to stave off a trade war with the United States. Mexican military police intercepted about 600 Central American migrants walking north on a highway in southern Mexico. Mexican officials also announced federal charges against two prominent migrant activists and financial penalties against more than two dozen people suspected of helping migrants.
Mexico’s finance ministry announced it had blocked the bank accounts of 26 people who had participated “in the trafficking of migrants and the illegal organization of migrant caravans.” The efforts are a part of a broad crackdown on illegal immigrants, with detentions and deportations of Central American migrants in recent months up significantly compared with the same period last year.