President Donald Trump said Saturday that a deal reached with Mexico on immigration includes that country’s commitment to purchase large quantities of agricultural products from U.S. farmers. In reality, however, that agreement isn’t anywhere in the joint declaration both countries issued.
A U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration was announced Friday evening, and Trump backed off on his threat to impose additional tariffs on Mexico. Trump had threatened to impose additional on tariffs on the country if it did not take additional actions to curb migration to the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposed tariffs were set to take effect on Monday, beginning at a 5% tariff on all Mexican goods and gradually increasing to 25% by October.
As part of the agreement, Mexico will do two main things. First, Mexico will itake unprecedented steps to increase [immigration] enforcement,” including by deploying the National Guard throughout the country and “giving priority to its southern border,” where migrants from Central America typically enter the country. Second, Mexico will participate in an expanded implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico, which requires those seeking asylum in the United States to be returned to Mexico, where they will wait until a decision has been made on their case.
The declaration mentions the importance of a strong regional strategy to address the “underlying causes of migration” and notes that both parties can take additional actions if the expected results are not achieved.
The text does not, however, mention U.S. agriculture or U.S.-Mexico trade.
That didn’t stop Trump from selling the agreement as a victory for U.S. farmers on Twitter, declaring in an all-caps statement that Mexico will “immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers.”
Trump faced criticism from members within his own party over the tariffs, and GOP senators threatened to block them. On Tuesday, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConell (R-KY) said there’s “not much support” for the tariffs among Republicans.
Several states — including those represented by Republicans — have Mexico as their top international trading partner. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Texas, Michigan, California, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida would have been hit particularly hard by the tariffs.
The threat of additional tariffs also complicated the USMCA — the trade deal seen as the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — which still has to be ratified by the legislatures in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
There were additional questions about how effective the sanctions would be as a foreign policy tool, when it comes to changing migration.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, one big concern was how the policy’s success was going to be measured. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the administration was looking for a “significant and substantial” decrease in the number of migrants reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, but would not clarify what the ideal number would be. Moreover, due to seasonal patterns in migration, there already is a dip in the number of migrants reaching the border in the summer months.
The new joint declaration does not clarify how many troops will be deployed to the border — especially since as Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda told NPR Friday, a Mexican National Guard “doesn’t really exist yet” but is “just the army with a different uniform.”
The future of the Remain in Mexico policy also remains unclear.
Martha Bárcena, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, said on Twitter asylum-seekers forced to wait in Mexico would have opportunities to work, go to school, and receive health care while waiting for their asylum claims in the U.S. But the policy is currently being challenged in court by civil rights groups who say the policy puts asylum seekers in danger and violates international law.
A federal judge initially blocked Remain in Mexico, but an appeals court later overturned the decision.
“The Trump administration announced that it intends to further expand its forced return to Mexico policy, which has been illegal since Day 1 and has already proven to be a disaster,” Omar Jadwat, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement Friday night. “We continue to press our legal challenge to the policy.”