Migration Talks: U.S., Mexican Officials Signal Progress Towards Deal

Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, right, speaks at a news conference at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2019, as part of a Mexican delegation in Washington for talks following trade tariff threats from the Trump Administration. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
NEIL MUNRO

Mexico’s government has tentatively agreed to ink a deal that would allow U.S. border agencies to quickly reject economic migrants who travel through Mexico, says a report in the Washington Post.

U.S. officials have been pushing Mexico to sign a “safe third country” deal for many months. But President Donald Trump’s promise of tariffs has changed the incentives for Mexico, which is now facing pressure from business groups and major lenders.

The Post reported:

The Mexican official and the U.S. official said the countries are negotiating a sweeping plan to overhaul asylum rules across the region, a move that would require Central Americans to seek refuge in the first foreign country they set foot upon after fleeing their homeland.

Under such a plan, the United States would swiftly deport Guatemalan asylum seekers who set foot on U.S. soil to Mexico. And the United States would send Honduran and Salvadoran asylum applicants to Guatemala, whose government held talks with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan last week.

The leak to the Washington Post was complemented by a leak to Bloomberg News, which reported that Trump might delay tariffs because the negotiations are making progress.

The translation said, “Options are still being explored to address the growing number of undocumented migrants across Mexico. The U.S. stance is focused on immigration control measures, ours in development. We have not yet reached the agreement but we continue to negotiate.”

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said little when he was asked about the “safe third country” deal. “I wouldn’t go into details,” he told reporters outside the Department of State.

On Tuesday, Mexico’s chief negotiator admitted there is a political crisis during a press conference after the talks, and after officials had announced that 144,000 migrants crossed from Mexico into the United States during May.

“Today the [May] numbers report was published, and indeed the flows are growing too much, so they can’t be maintained as they are,” Foreign Minister Ebrard said. “Both sides recognize that the current situation cannot be maintained as it is,” he added.

If Mexico signs a safe third country deal, it will face enormous pressure to shrink its own generous immigration laws, which are frequently cited by proud Mexicans as evidence of their nation’s goodness.

Migrants in the region have long ignored the opportunities for settlement in Mexico because of the open U.S. border. But the improving Mexican economy and tightening U.S. enforcement would create a huge incentive for Central American migrants to use those generous rules to take jobs and homes in Mexico.

The news of progress comes the day after border officials registered 144,000 migrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico. That number suggests that almost one million poor migrants and their children will cross into the United States in the 12 months prior to October 2019.

Democrats are trying to keep the poor migrants flowing into Americans’ workplaces, neighborhoods, schools — and eventually — into America’s voting booths.

For example, Democratic Rep. Richard Neal says he wants the House and Senate to block Trump’s tariff threats. Neal is the Democratic chairman of the tax-writing committee in the House. “If the President does declare a national emergency and attempt to put these tariffs into place, I will introduce a resolution of disapproval to stop his overreach,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Neal’s threat comes one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned whether Trump has the legal  authority to impose tariffs on what she said are “our allies.”

Pelosi’s statement was “perhaps most vocal & politically relevant endorsement of Mexico of the past days in the US,” said a tweet from José Díaz-Briseño, the correspondent for the Mexican newspaper Reforma.

The Democrats’ leader in the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer, also tried to reassure the Mexican government via a speech on the Senate floor:

I don’t believe President Trump will follow through on this threat to impose tariffs on Mexico … the president has a tendency for bluster … most Republican senators oppose the President’s idea of slapping tariffs on Mexico … I continue to believe he will back off.

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