President Trump slammed Mexico and Democratic lawmakers on Friday for the growing number of asylum seekers overwhelming the US southern border — the morning after he slapped Mexico with a new tariff as punishment for failing to stanch the flow.
“Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades. Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!” Trump tweeted from the White House.
He ripped Democrats again in an earlier tweet for failing to solve what he has repeatedly called a crisis at the Mexican border.
“Hard to believe that with the Crisis on the Border, the Dems won’t do the quick and easy fix. Would solve the problem but they want Open Borders, which equals crime!” he tweeted.
During Trump’s first two years in office, when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress, lawmakers took no action to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws, nor did they provide funding for the president’s long-promised border wall.
The tweets came after Trump — a self-described “Tariff Man” — announced the 5 percent tariff on all Mexican imports starting June 10, and threatened to incrementally increase them to a high of 25 percent on Oct. 1 if Mexico doesn’t take some unspecified action to slow the flow of Central American migrants seeking asylum at the US border.
“On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump tweeted Thursday evening.
“The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.”
Crossings at the southern border have spiked this year, despite Trump’s vow to crack down on illegal immigration.
In April, more than 109,000 migrants were apprehended crossing the border — more than double the more than 51,000 who were caught in April 2018, CBP reported on its website, and the numbers were expected to rise.
The feds have been apprehending the asylum seekers and then, in hundreds of cases, sending them by bus or plane to other US cities to be processed and given immigration court dates there because border facilities are overwhelmed.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded to the threat late Thursday, telling Trump that “social problems are not solved with duties or coercive measures” and alluded to the US’ history as a nation of immigrants.
“The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol,” he wrote, adding that he was dispatching his foreign relations secretary to Washington on Friday to try to negotiate a solution.
In his growing fury over an increase in border crossings that he has likened to an “invasion,” Trump has blamed Mexico for failing to stop the flow of asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who pass through its territory.
But some analysts warned that the new tariffs could derail a major trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which Team Trump negotiated as an update to NAFTA.
“The tariffs certainly put the USMCA on ice,” said Gary Hufbauer, an expert in trade law at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who panned the move but said Trump does have the legal authority to impose the tariffs under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by citing a national emergency.
“The drama is legal, but it’s preposterous.”
Daniel Ujczo, a US-based international trade lawyer, said the threat would likely slow the deal’s progress in Mexico and put US lawmakers who want to vote “yes” in a jam because companies in their districts will end up paying the tariffs.
Still, Ujczo and others wondered whether Trump — who has a habit of creating problems and then claiming credit when he rushes in to solve them — would go through with the threat.
“This seems more theater and tactics than a strategy to solve the migration crisis and rebalance North American trade,” Ujczo said.
And it wouldn’t be the first time Trump has punted on an immigration threat.
In late March, the commander in chief threatened to shut the entire US-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t immediately halt illegal immigration.
Just a few days later, he backed off the threat, saying he was pleased with steps Mexico had taken in recent days — even though it was unclear what was actually done.
But administration officials defended the move.
“We’re going to judge success here by the number of people crossing the border and that number needs to start coming down immediately, in a significant and substantial number,” said acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
He also insisted that tariffs were “completely” separate from the USMCA because one pertained to immigration and the other trade.
Still, the threat drew a withering response from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a usual Trump ally, who slammed it as “a misuse of presidential tariff authority” that would burden American consumers and “seriously jeopardize passage of USMCA.”