United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order today authorizing the construction of a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border, a move that is not sitting well with Mexican politicians.
Trump fulfills one of his main election campaign promises with the order, which also includes measures to combat illegal immigration and deport illegal immigrants who break other laws.
The president advised last night via Twitter that he would sign the order today, triggering an angry response from Mexican politicians, many of whom are now calling on President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a meeting with Trump scheduled for next Tuesday.
Democratic Revolution Party Senator Armando Ríos Piter called Trump’s order “hostile” and “an act of enmity” in a tweet last night and said Peña Nieto should cancel his meeting.
The National Action Party’s Margareta Zavala, a 2018 presidential hopeful, said signing the order ahead of Trump’s visit was “an offense to Mexico.”
A former foreign affairs secretary also found it offensive that the announcement came while two senior Mexican officials are meeting in Washington today.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray and Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal are discussing trade, immigration and other issues with senior members of the Trump administration, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior adviser Jared Kushner and national security advisor Michael Flynn.
“This is an insult to those Mexican officials, to the president of Mexico and to all Mexicans,” said Jorge Castaneda in a television interview. “It’s a way of making them negotiate under threat, under insults, and it should lead President Peña Nieto to cancel his trip next week.”
In another interview, Castaneda, who served as secretary under Vicente Fox of the National Action Party, said “Peña is a weak president in a weak country at a weak moment, but he has to find a way to get some official backbone.”
The head of analysis at a consulting firm told The Wall Street Journal that the president should not go to Washington. If he goes without anything tangible, said Alejandro Schtulmann of Empra, “it will be seen in Mexico as an act of submission.”
In an interview earlier today with ABC News Trump repeated his claim that Mexico would pay for the wall, reimbursing it 100%. “Ultimately, it will come out of what’s happening with Mexico . . . and will be in a form reimbursed by Mexico, which I’ve always said.”
Construction will begin within months but planning is starting immediately.
“What I’m doing is good for the United States,” Trump said. “It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”
Trump’s press secretary said following the signing of the orders that existing Department of Homeland Security funding would get construction of the wall started, after which congressional appropriations would take over.
The Guardian newspaper reported today that a construction consultant has estimated that building the wall would cost US $31 billion and require 40,000 people for more than five years.
Richard Steer of Gleeds Worldwide said most of the work force would probably come from the Mexican side of the border due in part to lower wages. “There would be a certain irony” in that, he said.
At least one Mexican is taking the whole issue with a grain of salt in the belief that creativity, or ingenuity, would render the wall useless anyway, the New York Times reported.
“This is just politics, it won’t upend life in Mexico,” said Ariel Najum, 39, who runs a family business. “You know how Mexicans are: if they go high, we go underneath, with tunnels.”