He’s doing it: starting June 10, the United States will impose a five percent tariff on goods imported from Mexico. It’s all because of—you guessed it—immigration. Donald Trump made the announcement Thursday night:
According to the New York Times, “if the crisis persists”—i.e., if more Central Americans fleeing violence and starvation attempt to seek sanctuary in the United States—Trump will raise tariffs to 10 percent, starting on July 1. The tariffs would continue to tick up five percent every month until October, whereupon they’ll top out at a whopping 25 percent.
It’s not clear exactly what specifically Trump expects Mexico to do to stop border crossings. If the United States is unable to curb the flow of migrants, it’s unlikely that the more cash-strapped Mexico will solve the problem.
Meanwhile, tariffs will punish the U.S. about as much as it will punish Mexico, not that Trump seems to comprehend that. Per the Times:
Mexico is Washington’s largest trading partner, sending across the border items like tomatoes, cars and rugs. Mexico sent the United States $346.5 billion of goods last year — meaning that a 5 percent tariff on those products would amount to a tax increase of more than $17 billion.
Most of the costs would then be passed on to businesses and consumers.
Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is pissed. “Trade policy and border security are separate issues,” he said in a statement, noting that the tariffs could imperil the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), for which the Trump Administration said it planned to seek congressional approval earlier on Thursday. “This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent.”
“Winning” the immigration battle—a thing that will never happen—is clearly more important to Trump than making good on his own trade deal, or bolstering the economy he keeps claiming undocumented immigrants have been impeding. As proven with his proposed tariffs on China, Trump uses the threat of tariffs the way my parents used to threaten me with a grounding in high school—it’s a heat-of-the-moment punishment in which one party briefly feels more powerful, and then everyone suffers. Nothing says “winning” like, say, spending a Saturday night with a sullen teenager, or an $8 avocado.