06.11.2019 0

President Trump’s deal with Mexico on illegal immigration proof that tariffs work

By Robert Romano

President Donald Trump and the State Department hammered out a deal with Mexico on June 7 that Mexico would do much more to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the country into the U.S. on the southern border.

The last-minute agreement avoided a 5 percent tariff by Trump on goods from Mexico that was set to go into effect on June 10 — and proves that the credible threat of tariffs worked in spite of naysayers who predicted there could be no resolution.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on May 31 confidently predicted, “The first problem here is that Mr. Trump is blaming Mexico for a mess it can’t solve… Perhaps it could better control its border with Guatemala, but the caravans north are often led by gangs that know how to bribe or avoid police.”

The Council on Foreign Relations on June 5 complained, “President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico can’t staunch the flow of people from his neighbors to the south.”

This is merely a lack of vision. Automatically, Trump’s critics assumed that nothing could be accomplished and therefore nothing should be tried. Also, note all the groveling. They do not put America first, and could not contemplate a way Trump’s policy might succeed.

Even Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote a letter (here, in English) to Trump on May 30 suggesting, “President Trump: You can’t solve social problems with taxes or coercive measures… I propose that you instruct your officials, if you do not mind, to attend representatives of our government, headed by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, who from tomorrow will move to Washington to reach an agreement for the benefit of the two nations. Nothing by force, everything by reason and Law!”

Surely, a negotiation did proceed. But without the tariff, nobody was talking. Trump, who had announced the tariff on May 30, invoked his Art of the Deal, which is to use your leverage — in this case the tariffs that put pressure on Mexican exports to the U.S. — and then, on June 7 a deal was had.

It took a week of threatening the tariff, and then an agreement was completed, just like that.

That’s cause and effect.


The President heralded the news on Twitter on June 7, stating, “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.”

According to the text of the joint agreement, courtesy of the U.S. State Department, “Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border. Mexico is also taking decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks.”

In addition, the U.S. will be expanding the Migrant Protection Protocols, per the agreement, “those crossing the U.S. Southern Border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await the adjudication of their asylum claims… [And,] Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims.”

In short, Mexico promises to secure its own southern border, and those who managed to make the trip through Mexico to the U.S. and requested asylum will be housed in Mexico pending adjudication of the asylum claims.

It is a huge win for President Trump and his administration, and comes as migration has been surging. Apprehensions on the southern border topped 144,000 in May, up from 109,000 in April and 103,000 in March, according to data compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Now, there’s no guarantees that Mexico’s promises will be fulfilled, or if they will be effective in curbing the migration surge.  The Trump administration will be monitoring the number from the Customs and Border Patrol in the coming months to check compliance.

Trump for his part is retaining the right to put the tariffs into effect. On June 10, Trump wrote on Twitter, “We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years. It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body… We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!”

Again, that is the Art of the Deal as Trump plans on enforcing the agreement. If Mexico does not comply, the tariffs come back. It creates a real carrot and stick.

Overall, what is clear is that the dialogue and agreement would have never happened without the tariff threat to get Mexico’s attention. It was an exercise of leadership that Trump’s opponents and critics are incapable of. But then again, that’s why Trump won the confidence of the American people and got elected President while they’re still apparently attempting to figure out how he did it.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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