Trump backs off tariff threat, says Mexico will help stem tide of Central American migrants headed for the U.S.

The deal expands a controversial program requiring some migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings. Texas officials worried about the economic impact of tariffs cheered the agreement Friday.

Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into U.S. at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in April. President Trump threatened to levy tariffs on Mexico if the country didn't help stem a growing tide of Central Americans traveling through to the United States.
Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into U.S. at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in April. President Trump threatened to levy tariffs on Mexico if the country didn't help stem a growing tide of Central Americans traveling through to the United States.  REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

President Donald Trump announced Friday evening that his administration has reached a deal with the Mexican government over immigration and the punitive tariffs he threatened to impose on Mexican imports have been postponed indefinitely.

“I am pleased to inform you that The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended,” he tweeted. “Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

The deal includes the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols program across the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson. The controversial program requires some migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings. The United States said on Friday that with the expansion, it will work to speed up adjudication of asylum claims and removal proceedings.

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That program began in California in January and was expanded to the El Paso ports of entries in March. It’s drawn the ire of immigrant rights groups and immigration attorneys who argue the policy affects an immigrant’s ability to have adequate representation because shelter space is limited in Mexico and it's unclear where their clients are staying.

Lawyers also say their clients face threats and have expressed fear of living in border cities that are prone to violence.

Mexico will also deploy units of its national guard throughout the country, with an emphasis on its southern border, and will make greater efforts to address human trafficking and smuggling.

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“Additionally, the United States and Mexico commit to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including information sharing and coordinated actions to better protect and secure our common border,” according to the statement.

The State Department added that if “expected” results are not reached, both countries will take further actions and will continue to discuss the issue over the next few months. The statement did not give exact benchmarks for what the Trump administration would consider success on Mexico’s part.

The news brought relief to Texas lawmakers and economists from both sides of the aisle who had urged the White House to reconsider the use of tariffs, citing the long-term economic damage Texas would incur.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, cheered the decision and congratulated the president on reaching a "solid agreement." Brady, the the ranking member on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said last week the tariffs could have jeopardized the pending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade pact seen by some lawmakers and economists as a much-needed improvement to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The outcome is a strong win for Texas and America. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues in the House and Senate to pass USMCA without delay so that American companies and workers can reap the benefits of this updated and modernized agreement,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he was pleased with the agreement.

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“I am optimistic that this announcement will bring confidence back to Americans," he said.

Jon Barela — CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico — called the announcement "great news".

"Uncertainty is the enemy of jobs, investment, and economic development. Congratulations to the negotiators in the U.S. and Mexico for their efforts to protect the borders and promote job growth and prosperity," he said. "Predictability, free trade, and secure borders are not mutually exclusive concepts."

The tariffs were scheduled to begin June 10 and Trump said he would increase them to as high as 25% by October if Mexico didn’t do more to stem the tide of migration through that country by immigrants whose ultimate destination is the United States.

This week Customs and Border Protection announced that in May about 133,000 migrants were apprehended or surrendered to border agents on the southwest border. Approximately 11,400 more were deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. The total represents an increase of about 32% from April.

The tariff threat came after Mexico recently became the United States' largest trading partner, though it has been Texas’ top trade partner for several years. Through March, more than $150 billion in trade passed through the countries’ ports, according to trade data analyzed by WorldCity. The U.S. exported $63.95 billion worth of goods and imported $86.63 billion worth of goods from Mexico. Texas’ ports at Laredo and El Paso are the the two busiest on the border, with $55.8 and $18.6 billion passing through those regions during that time frame.

Abby Livingston contributed to this story.

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