WASHINGTON, May 30, 2019 — Frustrated by his inability to unilaterally end South and Central Americans’ right to request asylum in the United States, and by Mexico’s refusal to close its southern border or enact Berlin Wall-like measures to keep people from leaving to head northward, President Trump on Thursday announced that he’d punish Mexico by raising taxes on Americans.
In a statement released while he was returning to Washington aboard Air Force One, Trump drew from the same pool of immigration-related rhetoric that he has used since taking office, including describing the influx of migrants into the United States as an “invasion” and repeating several specious claims about an alleged link between immigration and crime before demanding that the ability of asylum seekers to enter the United States from Mexico “must end NOW!”
“Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States,” Trump said before claiming that Mexico’s “very strong immigration laws” could enable its authorities to “easily halt the illegal flow of migrants” by returning them to their countries of origin or closing its border with Guatemala.
Continuing, the President announced that on June 10, 2019, he will invoke authority granted to him by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to impose a five percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico.
The five percent tariff will double one month later, Trump said, unless his administration repeals it after determining that Mexico has taken “effective actions” to alleviate what he called “the illegal migration crisis.”
“Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019,” he said.
“Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.”
Coincidentally, Trump’s announcement of new tariffs comes on the very same day that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that he’d be sending the U.S.-Mexico Canada Trade Agreement to the Mexican Senate for ratification.
In a letter to Trump released late Thursday, ópez Obrador stressed that he does not want confrontation.
“The peoples and nations we represent deserve that, in the face of any conflict in our relations, however serious they may be, we will resort to dialogue and act with prudence and responsibility,” he wrote, adding that migrants “do not abandon their villages for pleasure, but for necessity.”
“That is why… I proposed… helping the Central American countries with productive investments to create jobs and resolve this painful issue in depth.”
López Obrador also emphasized that Mexico is doing its best to prevent migrants from passing through the country “without violating human rights.”
When sked if the forthcoming tariffs might cause Mexico to pull out of the agreement, White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney claimed that the new tariffs would be considered “separate and apart” from the new trade agreement.
“These are not tariffs as part of a trade dispute. These are tariffs as part of the immigration problem. USMCA is a trade matter and completely separate,” Mulvaney said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico in retaliation for Mexico’s purported failure to prevent migrants from leaving the country and entering the United States, but has backed off from those threats after being warned that taxing all imports from one of the United States’ largest trading partners would undoubtedly hobble the American economy.
The acting chief of staff responded to a question on whether the White House was concerned about the economic impact of new tariffs by asserting that the economy is already being negatively affected by illegal immigration, adding that national security — not the economy — was Trump’s first priority.
Mulvaney also dismissed concerns that the tariffs amount to a decision by the President to raise Americans’ taxes to punish Mexico.
“Americans are paying for this right now. Illegal immigration comes at a cost. The American taxpayer is paying for what’s going on at the border.”
While Republicans have largely remained silent as Trump has imposed tariffs on imports from a number of countries, Senator Chuck Grassley assailed the administration’s plan as an inappropriate use of the tariff authority Congress has delegated to the president.
“Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” Grassley said in a statement.
“I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.”