Mexico Aims To Stop Trump's Tariffs Over Immigration

By Jorge Valencia, Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, June 3, 2019 - 12:41pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2019 - 8:45am
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LAUREN GILGER: And now let's turn to a story about the ongoing ramifications of the president's threat to impose tariffs on Mexico. Some of Mexico's highest ranking government officials are in Washington this week. They're pulling out all the stops in an effort to de-escalate tensions over immigration. They want to keep President Trump from slapping punitive tariffs on all imports. This could have broad reaching impact along the southwest border. To help us understand the situation, we have Jorge Valencia on the line from our Mexico City bureau. Good morning, Jorge.

JORGE VALENCIA: Morning, Lauren.

GILGER: OK, so what is the central message that Mexico wants to communicate here to President Trump?

VALENCIA: The thesis of their argument is twofold. First, they want President Trump to know that Mexico has in fact been working really hard at containing migration from countries other than Mexico arriving at the U.S. border. It's the first half. And the second half: they want Trump to see, or they want to try to show him that putting in place tariffs — which is what he has said would be the punishment of Mexico doesn't stop migration — that putting in place tariffs on imports from Mexico would actually be hurtful for consumers on both sides. And then it also would also be harmful for the Mexican economy, which would make it harder eventually for Mexico to contain migration going towards the United States.

There are two key numbers that I want to share with you that that they have thrown out. The first one is 80,000. Mexican immigration authorities have deported 80,000 people in the past six months. The overwhelming majority of them are people who have crossed into the country on foot trying to get to the United States. And then the second number is 25,000. Mexican immigration officials say that in that same period, they have gotten almost 25,000 applications for humanitarian visas.

Now, like you just said, Mexican officials are pulling out all the stops. So there are several members of the Mexican cabinet who are in Washington this week to do some sort of lobbying, if you want to call it that. They're being led by Martha Bárcena, who is Mexico's ambassador to the United States. And so she's saying that without Mexico's efforts, there could be a lot more people reaching the U.S.

MARTHA BÁRCENA: Without Mexico's efforts, an additional quarter million migrants could arrive at the U.S. border in 2019.

GILGER: So how exactly would these tariffs center that are being threatened here impact commerce?

VALENCIA: OK, so I'm going to give you a couple of numbers again. And I'm sorry to be throwing all these digits at you. But the key number is $350 billion. Mexico is the U.S.'s top trading partner, both imports and exports. And the U.S. imported about $350 billion worth of goods from Mexico last year that's that's anything for it for parts for that that are used for car manufacturing and plants in the Midwest tofully manufactured cars to berries to tomatoes that we get through the Nogales port from Sonora and Sinaloa.

And so putting in place a 5% tariff, which is what President Trump said last week that he would do, would represent $17.5 billion that would be shouldered on companies and consumers in the United States. I know that's kind of an abstract figure, but to sort of put it in perspective, that is much more than the operating budget for the entire state of Arizona for an entire year. Graciela Márquez Colín is the the the economy secretary of Mexico. She is also in Washington. This is how she put that into perspective.

GRACIELA MÁRQUEZ COLÍN: Imposing tariffs would be very damaging. Not for Mexico, but for the supply chains that every day produce goods in Mexico and in the United States.

GILGER: OK. So Jorge, you mentioned the the amount of people that Mexico has been deporting and some of the efforts they've been making. I know you did a lot of reporting down on Mexico's southern border. What does it look like there, like from your reporting and your impression — is Mexico doing enough to stop this?

VALENCIA: Well, I wouldn't venture to say whether or not Mexico is doing enough to stop this. But I think what can be objectively said is that Mexico is going through great lengths to stop people from reaching the U.S. And there are a couple of key areas where there has been a lot of change in the past six months. In southern Mexico, there have been at camps, both formal and informal, of migrants that have popped up over the past six months of people who entered Mexico. They were trying to get to the U.S. on foot, and then immigration authorities detained them. Many of them, like I said a moment ago, maybe they apply for humanitarian visas, maybe some will receive it, and then many, many of them will be deported to their countries of origin. The vast majority of them come from Central America.

And in fact, the numbers have increased dramatically. According to numbers for the Mexican government, the number of people crossing in could double what they saw last year. And that's just in the southern part of the border. I mean, there are also about 13,000 people that are just on the other outside of Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico who are waiting there for a chance to just be allowed to the port of entry two to apply for asylum. So Mexico is is certainly shouldering a large part of this burden, and I think that that's part of what a lot of people who pay close attention to migration on both sides of the border recognize and that perhaps President Donald Trump isn't really acknowledging.

GILGER: So what is the White House saying about all this as Mexico's leaders are in Washington trying to rally around this?

VALENCIA: Well, President Trump as recently as yesterday has just sort of shrugged off Mexico's efforts. He said that he knew that there was a delegation that was going to be in Washington this week. And he called it just talk. He said Mexico has been just talk for many years, and that he wants them to just stop migration, to basically to put actions. And I just want to play a little bit of what one of his surrogates said yesterday. It's Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, and he was on Fox News Sunday.

MICK MULVANEY: I fully expect these these tariffs to go onto at least the 5 percent level on June 10th. The president is deadly serious about fixing the situation at the southern border. This is not the first time I'm on your program talking about what's happening on the Mexican-U.S. border.

VALENCIA: So, as you can tell, President Trump and his team have drawn a hard line. At the same time, they haven't been very clear because then a lot of questions come up of what exactly does the president mean by he wants Mexico to stop migration? I mean, we've just gone over some numbers that there are many, many thousands of people who haven't been able to reach the United States because of Mexico's efforts. In fact, some academics colloquially or informally have told me that they think of Mexico as really the wall stopping people from reaching the United States.

So, what exactly does the president want, and will he go through with this 5 percent tariff? I mean, he seems he seems totally serious like Mulvaney said, but what exactly does he want in return? It's not very clear, and hopefully maybe at some point this week, we'll get a little bit of a better picture.

GILGER: Yeah. All right. That is KJZZ's Jorge Valencia joining us from Mexico City. Jorge, thanks as always.

VALENCIA: Thanks, Lauren.

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