For two days, United States President Donald Trump tweeted and spoke about a secret immigration deal with Mexico beyond the agreement the two countries reached last Friday.
“. . . It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s legislative body!” he tweeted on Monday, adding that if “approval is not forthcoming, tariffs will be reinstated!”
However, the White House didn’t provide any other details, and Mexico denied that there was a hidden part of the deal, provoking skepticism about whether it really did exist.
But now the agreement appears to have been partially revealed – unintentionally — by the U.S. president.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Trump removed a folded piece of paper from his breast pocket.
“Right here is the agreement . . . It’s very simple. It’s right here. And in here is everything you want to talk about. Done. It’s done. It’s done,” Trump said, adding that it was “the agreement that everybody says I don’t have.”
The U.S. president said he wouldn’t reveal what the document said because he wanted to allow Mexico to reveal it “at the right time.”
In response to reporters who asked for details, Trump said he would like to show them the agreement but added “you will freeze action on it, you will stop it, you will analyze it . . .”
The latter part of the president’s claim – journalistic analysis – quickly proved to be prophetic.
Although Trump didn’t disclose the details of the deal himself, a photographer for The Washington Post managed to take a shot of the document that reveals some of its contents.
To improve readability, the photographer, Jabin Botsford, flipped the photo before posting it to his Twitter account. Then came the media scrutiny.
The Post reported that the document deals with some kind of “burden sharing” involving “refugees,” which indicates that it is most likely a “safe third country” agreement.
However, the newspaper noted that it was “curious” that the presidents of United States and Mexico hadn’t signed the deal “given the gravity of the topic.”
The text of the apparent deal indicates that Mexico would be obliged to enact it if it fails to stem the flow of migrants through the country to the United States border.
“If the United States determines, at its discretion and after consultation with Mexico, after 45 calendar days from the date of the issuance of the Joint Declaration, that the measures adopted by the Government of Mexico pursuant to the Joint Declaration have not sufficiently achieved results in addressing the flow of migrants to the southern border of the United States, the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under the domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”
Although the document appears to be signed by Alejandro Celorio Alcántara, a deputy legal adviser in Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, as well as Marik String, acting legal adviser in the U.S. State Department, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said later yesterday that Mexico has not yet committed to implementing a “safe third country” agreement.
However, he acknowledged that the United States will likely ask for a such a deal if it deems that after 45 days Mexico has made insufficient progress in stemming the flow of migrants.
If that should occur, the agreement would have to be approved by lawmakers – thus explaining Trump’s tweet – and probably negotiated with other countries in the region.
“It would be applied if we fail, and if we accept what they tell us,” Ebrard said.
The foreign secretary said that Mexico would prepare itself “in the best possible way for the negotiation that will occur in 45 days if the measures adopted don’t have the results we expect.”
Ebrard’s comments and the text of the document Trump produced indicate that the agreement’s application is largely contingent on Mexico’s National Guard failing to reduce illegal immigration.
As part of the agreement to stave off tariffs threatened by Trump, Mexico agreed to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the border with Guatemala.
It also agreed to accept the return of migrants who have sought asylum in the United States as they await the outcome of their claims.
While Mexico has agreed to bolster security, Ebrard stressed that last week’s negotiations didn’t set a specific migration reduction target.
He also said that any future negotiations would be limited to migration issues – that is, the possible application of a “safe third country” agreement.
The imposition of tariffs would not be on the table, Ebrard said, contradicting the claims made by both Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mexico has long opposed the introduction of a “safe third country” scheme, which would force Central American migrants to seek asylum in Mexico rather than in the United States.
Ebrard said that United States officials had strongly pushed for such a deal, stating that for much of the negotiations “it seemed like it was third safe country agreement or tariffs.”
Although Mexico appears to have committed to implement a “safe third country” scheme should its efforts to reduce migration fall short of United States’ expectations, the legal official who seemingly signed the agreement in question indicated that it wasn’t a done deal as claimed by Trump.
Celorio said the government would come up with variations, or alternatives, to present to the United States.
After putting forward “a range of concepts” that were rejected by the United States last week, the Mexican government will now have time to “prepare more, present them with better options,” he said.