Migrants console each other after US officers fire tear gas on the California-Mexico border, November 25, 2018

Continuing his campaign against a migration “crisis” which he helped create, Donald Trump considers whether to sign his order for tariffs against Mexico.

Last-minute talks between the Administration and Mexico continue on Friday, after Trump’s declaration last week that he will impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican products from June 10. The duties will rise 5% each month, to a maximum of 25%, until Trump is satisfied with Mexican handling of migrants who are moving towards the US.

Pursuing re-election in 2020 through an anti-immigration position, Trump and hardline advisors such as Stephen Miller are gambling that they can get Mexican concessions before the US suffers more economic damage from Trump’s tariff weapons.

Analysts estimate that more than 4,000 US jobs will be lost with the introduction of the tariffs. They come on top of Trump’s trade war with China — including a rise from 10% to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese products, and a threat to impose the charge on the remaining $350 billion of Beijing’s goods — which economists estimate could cost $1.3 trillion in GDP.

On Thursday, a Mexican delegation led by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard offered in the Washington talks to deploy 6,000 National Guard personnel on the border with Guatemala.

Ebrard told Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Mexico will act against transnational gangs trafficking migrants through Mexico

The Administration, sharply limiting the US handling of asylum cases, is also demanding that Mexico declare itself a “safe third country” ad require that migrants seek asylum in the first foreign country they enter after leaving their homes.

Guatemalans looking for refuge would have to apply in Mexico rather than the US. Those fleeing El Salvador and Honduras would have to seek asylum in Guatemala.

Mexico has resisted the demand so far. About 8,000 migrants are waiting in the country, and the new provision would sharply increase the long-term number.

Creating a Crisis

Trump is also gambling that Americans will not notice that the migration “crisis” has occurred on his watch, reversing a decades-long decline in undocumented migrants entering the US.

Administration officials are emphasizing that more than 144,000 were detained in May, the largest number for any month in 13 years.

But they did not note the steady decrease in the number until 2017. Nor did they explain why the sharp upturn began in 2018, after the Administration announced its “zero tolerance” policy and implemented measures that included restrictions on asylum applications and separation of children from undocumented parents.

In part, the increase is because migrants are being seized before they can lodge asylum applications. In part, it is because of flight from local conditions such as poverty and violence — conditions which have been exacerbated by Trump Administration decisions.

In March, Trump ordered an end to all US aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, including support of anti-poverty, job creation, and anti-violence programs. The State Department has withdrawn from involvement in anti-corruption initiatives in Guatemala. And Trump has denied the climate change that is further eroding Central American economies.

The large proportion of the increase in migration is from families, including women and children, fleeing deprivation and violence. But under the Administration’s zero tolerance policy, asylum applications on grounds of domestic abuse or gang violence have been sharply restricted.

Diplomats in both the US and Mexico and immigration experts said that, in these conditions, Trump’s demand for a total end to migration is a fantasy. Kevin Appleby of the Center for Migration Studies explains:

{Trump’s approach] hows a basic misunderstanding about the patterns of migration. The Mexican government could take some steps. But there are going to be ways that migrants get to our border regardless of what the Mexicans do.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “Progress is being made, but not nearly enough!”, but he was silent yesterday as he attended D-Day ceremonies in Normandy in France.