2019-09-11 14:27:521 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
At the beginning of the summer, Donald Trump put heat on Mexico to take action to help curb the flow of Central American migrants across the Mexico-United States border. He threatened them with tariffs if they didn't comply.
This brought the two countries to the bargaining table. While Trump insisted a deal had been forged, Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard insisted there had been no deal, that they would make some changes and readdress the issue in 45 days.
Now 90 days out, Mexico did step up their efforts to stop migrants from entering their country at their southern border, and it's been seen as successful, but Trump still wants the U.S. neighbor to agree to be a "safe third country," an idea Mexico continues to reject.
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Ebrard on Tuesday, asking for Mexico to do more to stop Central American migrant families from crossing the border.
However, afterward, Ebrard maintained Mexico's position that they oppose the idea of a "safe third country." This would required migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico first before reaching the U.S.
The number of migrants taken into custody in the past three months has declined 56 percent from 144,000 in May, a 12-year high, to just 64,000 in August. Trump and aides have offered praise to Mexico for their work with this but still want more to be done. Additionally, some U.S. officials believe the numbers could be on the rise again once cooler weather hits this fall.
Pompeo said before the meeting that the trends at the border are "substantial and real and material." He added that Mexico's increased enforcement has "made Americans more safe."
Despite this admission, he also added that "we know there is still work to do, and we're going to talk about how best we can jointly deliver that."
After the meetings, Trump tweeted, "Incredible progress being made at the southern border!"
He included a chart that showed a dramatic decline in the number of new migrants who are able to remain in the U.S. after being taken into custody. There was no attribution source for the chart, and it's not typical metrics for Customs and Border Protection.
After Sharpie-gate last week, it's probably not advisable for Trump to be touting unverified charts. An administration official admitted later the chart was given to Trump by the Mexican delegation.
In a transcript of the meeting, Pence praised Ebrard for his country's work in dispatching National Guard troops to is borders. He also stressed the need for Mexico to adhere to Migrant Protection Protocols which would force migrants to remain in Mexico as their cases are processed.
Ebrard told reporters after the meeting that Trump did join them for about 10 minutes and that he had a "positive impression" of Mexico's efforts to curb migration. He also noted Trump did not renew his tariff threat.
"What Mexico is doing has achieved results," expressed Ebrard. "While we're still above historic [migration] levels, this trend is irreversible. It's something that we think will be permanent."
He also said the Mexican delegation asked the Trump administration to take more steps to curb the flow of weapons into his country as they try to fight an increase in murders and violent crime.
Experts note that the administration not completely touting success with curbing the number of migrants is because the numbers are still high. While the number of migrants detained lowered significantly, August's numbers were still higher than any August since 2007.
"They are at least being somewhat nuanced because if they claim victory, it could give Mexico an excuse to say, 'See, we don't need to negotiate a safe third agreement,' " said immigration analyst Theresa C. Brown at the Bipartisan Policy Center who was also an official with the Department of Homeland Security's immigration office until 2011.
"It's too soon to assess whether this is a long-term change, a short-term change, a blip. A lot is still in limbo."
Security analyst Adam Isacson at the Washington Office on Latin America believes Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan's desire to return to "historic lows" at the border puts unrealistic expectations on Mexico.
"Mexico is not East Germany," he said. "It's always going to be a place that is pretty permeable, especially when you have large numbers of people who want to leave their home countries and sophisticated smuggling networks that aren't going out of business any time soon."
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