In a what could be a major victory for the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported this weekend that the Mexican government has agreed to keep individuals seeking asylum in the United States by coming in through Mexico on the southern side of the border while their asylum claims are processed.
However, the Mexican government has cast doubt on the potential development.
The new policy would “remake U.S. border policy,” according to The Washington Post, which first reported it Saturday.
Dubbed “Remain in Mexico,” the deal was first confirmed by transition officials on the team of the incoming Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as other Mexican officials.
President Donald Trump, of course, was less quiet about the deal.
Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court. We only will allow those who come into our Country legally. Other than that our very strong policy is Catch and Detain. No “Releasing” into the U.S…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2018
“Migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “No ‘Releasing’ into the U.S….All will stay in Mexico.”
If the policy wasn’t followed, Trump also included a threat: “If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!”
….All will stay in Mexico. If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will CLOSE our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2018
That threat isn’t just to seem tough.
Keep in mind that Obrador is a hard-leftist. While he generally denies he’s in the mold of characters like the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, he’s engaged in stunts like suggesting in a Reuters report last year “that the government of Mexico presents a lawsuit at the United Nations against the U.S. government for violation of human rights and racial discrimination” over the proposed border wall.
During the Mexican presidential campaign, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, he proposed that Mexico turn its 50 consulates in the United States into de facto legal defense clearinghouses for illegal immigrants.
Of course, where there’s the stick with the Trump administration, there’s usually someone providing the carrot. This time, it was White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, who said that, “President Trump has developed a strong relationship with the incoming Lopez Obrador Administration, and we look forward to working with them on a wide range of issues.”
Usually it’s not the president playing the bad cop (see: Cheney, Richard), but fans of the Trump administration have come to embrace the change.
So, could the new policy mean, you may wonder?
“According to outlines of the plan, known as Remain in Mexico, asylum applicants at the border will have to stay in Mexico while their cases are processed, potentially ending the system, which Trump decries as ‘catch and release,’ that has generally allowed those seeking refuge to wait on safer U.S. soil,” the WaPo reports.
“While no formal agreement has been signed, and U.S. officials caution that many details must still be discussed, the incoming Mexican government is amenable to the concept of turning their country into a waiting room for America’s asylum system.”
I personally love the “… which Trump decries as ‘catch and release’” part, since a) he’s not the first to call it this and b) this is exactly what it is. As for the “safer U.S. soil” part — well, safer for whom?
Obrador officials said that the policy was a stopgap measure, insisting that a fuller solution would involve stopping illegal immigration entirely.
“For now, we have agreed to this policy of Remain in Mexico,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, Mexico’s incoming interior minister, told the WaPo, insisting it was a “short-term solution.”
“The medium- and long-term solution is that people don’t migrate,” Sánchez Cordero said. “Mexico has open arms and everything, but imagine one caravan after another after another. That would also be a problem for us.”
Wait, weren’t caravans fictive elements of our imagination? Someone really ought to tell Sánchez Cordero she’s using racist, dog-whistle language against Hispanics. It’s high time these white conservatives checked their priv– oh wait.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the perennial problem of illegal immigration is solved. In fact, the Mexican government might still back away from it. As The Washington Post reported, once its story about the deal became public, the pressure on the Obrador government started immediately:
“On Saturday, following publication of The Washington Post story and criticism of the incoming government for acceding to pressure from Trump, Sánchez Cordero and other members of the incoming government denied that an agreement had been reached and said talks with the United States were ongoing.”
As Fox News noted, Sanchez Cordero “did not explain in the statement why The Washington Post had quoted her as saying there had been an agreement.”
Still, The Washington Post report maintained: “While no formal agreement has been signed, and U.S. officials caution that many details must still be discussed, the incoming Mexican government is amenable to the concept of turning their country into a waiting room for America’s asylum system.”
The fact that the concession has seemingly been extracted from Obrador — a man not enamored of Trump who seemed to be tacitly encouraging illegal immigrants and immigration during his campaign — is a sign that the Mexican left has realized the pressure that caravans from Central America will put on them both politically and economically.
The fact that Mexico regards it as a “short-term solution,” a step toward ending illegal immigration entirely, is an even bigger sign.
In short, whatever actually comes from it in the immediate future, Mexico’s agreement on this could be yuge in every sense of the word.