- Reuters/Henry Romero
After months of talk during the presidential campaign and in the lead up to his inauguration, Donald Trump appears set to take action on his promises to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and to expel immigrants in the US illegally.
Sources told Reuters that Trump would begin issuing orders on Wednesday, likely directing the construction of the border wall and other actions to track down and deport undocumented immigrants.
As a part of the immigration and border measures, Trump is expected to propose the hiring of 5,000 more US border agents and call for local law enforcement agencies to work with federal immigration authorities.
The latter step could mean raids on workplaces and homes and dividing families already in the US.
The reports of imminent action on Trump’s border and immigration plans have spurred backlash in Mexico – not only at Trump and not only for his continued insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall.
Mexico’s economy minister and newly appointed foreign minister are slated to meet with members of Trump’s team – including advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is to visit the US on January 31 to meet with Trump.
Accordingly, Mexicans have called on their government to cancel these meetings and send a message to the Trump administration that it will not kowtow to what is seen as bullying.
- Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Peña Nieto and Luis Videgaray – the foreign minister who, as finance minister, arranged Trump’s controversial meeting with the Mexican president in late August – have also been singled out for derision and exhortations.
“I don’t think there are conditions for the visit of president [Peña Nieto] to Washington,” tweeted Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, a professor of government and public policy in Monterrey.
“Peña will arrive in Washington with things decided against him. For one thing, the wall. He should not go,” Héctor Aguilar Camín, a writer and director of Nexos magazine, said on Twitter.
Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003, said the leak of plans for executive orders on border and immigration policies on the eve of the Mexican government’s meetings in Washington was “outrageous.”
“The president of USA has been very erratic and the leaks are undeniably his; it is a game of bad faith that could put [Peña Nieto] in a situation of vulnerability because he has nothing to gain,” Castañeda said in an interview with Imagen Radio.
- REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
“THE WALL IS COMING. And our ‘president’ still seeks audience [with] the boss,” Trump, tweeted John Ackerman, a law professor and writer who lives and works in Mexico. Peña Nieto “should cancel immediately his meeting [at the] White House …”
“And Videgaray is going to be in Washington while that happens,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said in response to Trump’s Tuesday-night tweet announcing a “big day” on national security on Wednesday.
“That man has an admirable knack for humiliation,” Hope added, referring to Videgaray.
“Will [Peña Nieto] dare to say in public and in the White House: ‘We will not pay for the wall’ and ‘Mexico first’?” Univision and Fusion journalist Jorge Ramos said on Twitter.
“Mexico should oppose the construction of the Trump Wall. Don’t discuss who will pay for it,” said Rogelio Audiffred, a former federal deputy from Mexico’s center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party, of which Peña Nieto is the leader.
“Accepting the first,” Audiffred added, “implies the second.”
- REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
“What needs to be done is cancel the Southern Border Plan as soon as the executive order to finance the wall is signed,” Mexican author Álvaro Enrigue tweeted on Tuesday night, referring to the plan implemented by Peña Nieto’s government, with US backing, to crack down on the flow of migrants over Mexico’s southern border.
“What Mexico’s foreign minister Luis Videgaray needs to do is skip DC and get on a plane to China. Now,” said Lucrecia Santibañez, a professor at Claremont Graduate University.
Calls for the Mexican government to expand its partnerships with other countries have increased in recent months, as Trump rose in the polls and then won the US presidential election.
“Mexico is waking up to realize that we cannot keep being economically dependent on the USA. This is the lesson: diversify,” Viridiana Rios, a global fellow at the Washington, DC-based Wilson Center and a former adviser to the Mexican finance ministry, told Business Insider after the election. “And we will. It will take some time, and will be painful in the short term, but will happen.”
During a speech this week, Peña Nieto also said that the Mexican government would start talks about new bilateral commercial agreements with other countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade pact thrown into doubt by Trump’s withdrawal of the US from negotiations. (Though Peña Nieto also cancelled his participation in a regional summit this week due to his “internal agenda” throwing into doubt his commitment to partners other than the US).
- Thomson Reuters
Trump has railed against the NAFTA trade deal binding the countries of North America, saying that the US would abandon the pact if he couldn’t renegotiate “a fair deal.” Mexico has said it’s willing to “modernize” NAFTA, particularly on the matter of rules of origin for imports and exports, but some details couldn’t be altered.
“There are very clear red lines that must be drawn from the state,” Ildefonso Guajardo, the economy minister, said before leaving for Washington. “If we’re going for something that is less than what we have now, it doesn’t make sense to stay in.”
“What we want is to maintain free access for Mexican products, without restrictions, without tariffs and quotas,” Videgaray said on Monday.
- Henry Romero/REUTERS
The Mexican government may be trying to deter Trump from making any drastic changes to NAFTA, the end of which would hurt the US but wreak havoc on the Mexican economy.
To this end, Peña Nieto has hinted Mexico could halt cooperation on issues like border security and immigration should Trump scrap NAFTA.
While Trump has been and continues to be an object of scorn for many Mexicans, the US president’s antagonism has thrown into relief the many of the frustrations they have with their own government, on issues ranging from security to corruption to poor economic progress.
Whatever Peña Nieto’s strategy for dealing with Trump is going forward, those frustrations are unlikely to ease.
“We don’t fear the #Wall of [Donald Trump],” said priest and human-rights activist Alejandro Solalinde. “We fear the wall of corruption built” by the PRI and Peña Nieto.