In his first Twitter post yesterday morning, United States President Donald Trump wished his almost 50 million followers a happy Easter.
But soon after the president shifted his tone dramatically to take aim at one of his favorite and most frequent targets: Mexico.
“Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S.,” Trump wrote.
“They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”
In an earlier tweet, Trump said that “caravans” of migrants were coming and declared that “Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW.”
The president was apparently referring to a large contingent of Central American migrants who are currently traveling through Mexico on their way to the United States as part of an annual campaign organized by the migrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders).
The group’s aim is to raise awareness about migrants’ rights and the situations they face in their countries of origin that force them to leave.
A segment on the news program Fox & Friends — during which the head of the National Border Patrol Council union said the immigrants would wreak “chaos and havoc” if they made it to the U.S. — was allegedly the trigger for Trump’s Twitter tirade.
The so-called “caravan” will reach the Mexico-U.S. border in about three weeks but migrants will seek asylum at legal entry points rather than try to enter the country illegally as implied by Trump, a Pueblo Sin Fronteras project coordinator told ABC News.
Nevertheless, Trump claimed that “these big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA,” in reference to the immigration policy that allows some undocumented migrants who arrived in the United States as children to remain in the country.
“NO MORE DACA DEAL,” he declared.
Following Trump’s assertion that Mexico is “doing very little” to stem migration flows, Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray hit back on his own Twitter account.
“Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this. An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation . . .” he wrote.
Mexico has ramped up its efforts to stop undocumented migrants from reaching the United States since 2014 when a flood of Central Americans began leaving their homelands. Both detentions and deportations have increased.
Almost 27,000 Hondurans — currently the largest group of Central American migrants — were deported from Mexico last year compared to around 21,000 who were forced out of the United States, according to the Consular and Migrant Observatory of Honduras.
Two presidential candidates also reacted strongly to Trump’s Twitter claims.
At a rally to launch his campaign in Ciudad Juárez, frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador told supporters that “neither Mexico nor its people will be the piñata of any foreign government.”
The leftist candidate asserted that a government he leads would be respectful of the United States government but also demand respect for Mexicans. López Obrador also reiterated his position on Trump’s border wall proposal.
“Let this be heard near and far: neither security issues nor social problems can be resolved with walls or the use of force,” he said.
Ricardo Anaya, the candidate for the right-left coalition “For Mexico in Front,” responded to Trump’s comments prior to a rally in Jalisco.
“We will maintain a strong and dignified stance in the face of the U.S. president’s latest statements,” he said, adding “we need a new relationship of shared responsibility and mutual respect.”
Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric on Mexico is not new, dating back at least to his infamous 2015 speech in which he labeled Mexicans “rapists” and said they are bringing drugs and crime into the United States.
However, his tough talk is increasingly at odds with the words of other members of his administration and even contrasts sharply with some concrete government actions.
After announcing three new joint border security agreements last week, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said “we are neighbors, we are allies, we are friends.”
United States Coast Guard officials also revealed last week that the two neighbors, along with Colombia, are cooperating on joint mission to combat drug traffickers at sea.
Despite the cooperation, Trump’s relationship with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto remains strained.
The pair have not held an official face-to-face meeting but have shared at least two tense telephone conversations. The most recent call in February led to the cancelation of a planned meeting.
A visit to Mexico last month by Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kuchner was widely seen as a move to smooth over strained bilateral relations.
Despite the damage his social media broadsides can cause to the bilateral relationship, Trump seemingly remains undeterred and returned to Twitter today to again lash out at Mexico.
“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large “Caravans” of people enter their country. They must stop them at their northern border . . .” he wrote in his first tweet this morning.
“Mexico is making a fortune off NAFTA . . . They have very strong border laws – ours are pathetic. With all of the money they make from the U.S., hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours, at least until Congress changes our immigration laws!” said another.