Mexico to Trump: No funding for wall, but we’ll help Texas

Trump's tweets aren't swaying the country, but officials said they are prepared to help those impacted by Harvey.

Evacuees wade down a flooded section of Interstate 610 as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston. CREDIT: AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Evacuees wade down a flooded section of Interstate 610 as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston. CREDIT: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

As its northern neighbor faces one of the worst storms in modern history, Mexico has offered support and condolences to Texas, while reiterating to President Donald Trump that the country will not be paying for his contentious border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In comments made Sunday, Mexican officials honed in on the tragedy currently playing out only a short distance away. Texas has been staring down a humanitarian and economic crisis following Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall late Friday evening as a Category 4 hurricane. While Harvey has been downgraded to a tropical storm as of Monday, rain and winds continue to batter the Lone Star State’s beleaguered coast, including Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States. Tens of thousands of Texans evacuated the coast over the weekend, and many have taken refuge in shelters elsewhere in the state. Experts are speculating the storm’s ramifications could be felt for years—with horrifying implications for Texas.

Mexico, which once governed Texas, reacted swiftly to Harvey’s devastation.

“The government of Mexico takes this opportunity to express its full solidarity with the people and government of the United States for the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and reports that we have offered the US government all the help and cooperation that can be provided by the different Mexican governmental agencies to deal with the impacts of this natural disaster, as good neighbors should always do in times of difficulty,” a statement from the government read.

But the comments focused first on a tweet Trump published early Sunday morning reviving one of the president’s long-standing claims: that Mexico will pay for his proposed border wall.

Mexico’s government has rejected Trump’s assertion numerous times, a position that doesn’t seem to have changed. Officials firmly rejected the president’s renewed demands, repeating its stance.

“As the government of Mexico has always maintained, our country will not pay, under any circumstances and under any circumstances, a wall or physical barrier built on US territory along the Mexican border,” the foreign ministry responded bluntly. “This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity.”

Trump’s feud with Mexico over the border wall stretches back to his days on the campaign trail. As a presidential candidate, Trump declared he would erect a “big” and “beautiful” wall along the border, part of a larger campaign targeting undocumented immigrants. Trump also stated boldly that Mexico would pay for the wall—something the Mexican government quickly confirmed was definitely not happening. In the time since Trump assumed the presidency, he has alternated between insisting Mexico will pay for the wall and attempting to force the U.S. Congress to fund the project. Sunday’s tweets indicate he has re-focused on the former approach, despite no indication from Mexico that the country’s stance has changed.

The wall isn’t the only topic Trump has prioritized this weekend. While Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) declared a state of emergency for 30 Texas counties last Wednesday in advance of Harvey, Trump has been less focused on the deadly hurricane. Federal disaster funds were not freed for Texas until late Friday night, after Trump had pardoned controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio and officially barred new transgender military service members. Over the course of the weekend, as Texans fled Harvey’s winds and floods, Trump appeared preoccupied with other topics, including contentious NAFTA negotiations, attacking the media, and, as noted, the border wall he hopes to erect.

Meanwhile, Mexican officials have focused on Harvey and providing assistance. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray called Abbott Sunday to offer support, in a move reminiscent of the aid Mexico provided the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A delegation from the Mexican Armed Forces arrived in Louisiana following that hurricane, including engineers and doctors. Sent by then-President Vicente Fox, they spent three weeks serving meals, distributing supplies, and ensuring New Orleans’ residents were given medical assistance. That aid saved lives—and it could again.

Mexico’s offer comes at a pivotal time. With around 30,000 Texans likely to be homeless for an indefinite period of time and a staggering amount of damage done to local infrastructure, the state is desperately in need of aide and assistance. But that may not be enough to convince Trump, whose combative relationship with Mexico seems unlikely to improve any time soon.

Administration figures seem aware of that tension. When asked for comment, government officials did not say whether or not the United States will accept Mexico’s offer, and downplayed the country’s generosity.

“It is common during hurricanes and other significant weather events for the U.S. Government to be in close contact with our neighbors and partners in the region to share data and cooperate as needed and appropriate,” a State Department official told the Washington Post. “If a need for assistance does arise, we will work with our partners, including Mexico, to determine the best way forward.”