Responding to Trump's ultimatum, Mexico’s government takes action against lawless “migrant” militants — but will the U.S. Congress now take responsible action?
Aerial photos of the migrant “caravan” marching northward across Mexico looked frighteningly reminiscent of the long lines of tens of thousands of Muslim migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan that invaded Europe during the “refugee crisis” of 2015. News stories of the pedestrian caravan, numbering more than 1,200 individuals, first appeared on March 30. The left-wing news site BuzzFeed provided one of the earliest reports, a sympathetic article by Adolfo Flores entitled, “A Huge Caravan Of Central Americans Is Headed For The US, And No One In Mexico Dares To Stop Them.” As Flores pointed out, Mexican authorities had taken a hands-off approach to the caravan, composed mostly of Hondurans, which had started at Mexico’s southern border, in violation of Mexico’s own strict immigration laws. Organizers of the caravan told BuzzFeed that, upon arriving at the U.S. border, they intended to either ask for asylum or refugee status, or to sneak across illegally.
Mexico’s incumbent president, Enrique Pena Nieto, is ineligible for another term and with national elections for the presidency and the federal Congress coming up on July 1, the leading politicians have viewed the caravan indulgently, seeing it as a rebuke to President Trump, who is a figurative piñata in Mexican politics. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO), the hard-left Marxist who is a front-runner for the presidency, has won broad support by promising to “put him [Trump] in his place.” Former Mexican President Vincente Fox (President George W. Bush’s NAFTA/SPP “Amigo”) has also received widespread favorable media coverage for his unrelenting vituperative attacks on Trump. Sensing the populist appeal of an anti-Trumpian posture, most Mexican politicians have joined in the Trump bashing, over the past year.
Things appear to have changed, however, following President Trump’s announcement that his administration viewed the planned invasion as a serious national security issue. As Alex Newman reported here on April 2, President Trump called out the Mexican government in a series a tweets, demanding that Mexico enforce its immigration laws. If they failed to do so, he threatened, he would end their NAFTA “cash cow.”
He followed that up, as reported by The New American’s Warren Mass, with the announcement that he would be deploying National Guard units to the U.S.-Mexico border.
An April 4 press statement entitled, “What You Need to Know About the President’s Authorization for the National Guard to Deploy to the Southern Border” on the Whitehouse.gov website, states: “To give our Border Patrol agents the support they deserve, President Trump is authorizing the deployment of National Guard units to the southern border to aid their mission.... Given the importance of secure borders to our national security, the National Guard, in coordination with governors, will remain in a support role until Congress takes the action necessary to close the loopholes undermining our border security efforts, including ending the practice of Catch and Release.”
“More than a thousand people a day and more than 300,000 a year violate our sovereignty by illegally crossing the border,” the White House statement goes on to note. “With our current laws and resources, we cannot stop illegal aliens from crossing the border or remove all of the illegal aliens we catch. Of the over 75,000 family units apprehended in FY 2017, only 2,605 were removed.”
President Trump let it be known that he is as exasperated with inaction by the U.S. Congress (including members of his own party) as he is with Mexico’s government. “Stonewalling by Members of Congress, however, has prevented our dedicated Border Patrol agents from getting the resources they so desperately need,” the White House press statement continued. “Inaction has left glaring loopholes open and crucial legal authorities unauthorized, so the President is taking action and using his existing powers to fill these gaps.”
President Trump demonstrated that firm rhetoric backed by resolute action brings results. After President Trump threw down the gauntlet, the Mexican government declared that its immigration policy "is not subject to pressure." Nevertheless, following that face-saving statement, the government noted the caravan "began to disperse by decision of the participants." According to news reports, the Mexican government began deporting hundreds of the caravan marchers to their home countries. Many of the remaining marchers have splintered into smaller groups, and, undoubtedly — should they make it this far — will find crossing the border into the United States much more difficult than expected.
Now the challenge for President Trump will be to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the other GOP leaders in Congress who are hard on rhetoric but soft on action when it come to immigration/border issues to step up and deliver.
Photo of President Trump in front of border wall prototype: AP Images