Earlier this week, Donald Trump waved around a single sheet of paper in front of reporters to brag about a “secret” deal his administration had reached with Mexico on immigration enforcement. But he wouldn’t share any of the details on that piece of paper, saying he would “let Mexico do the announcement at the right time.”
It didn’t take long for the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to show Trump what being transparent means.
On Friday, the Mexican government publicly released the one-page document, and to the surprise of no one, it made no mention of Trump’s June 8 claim that Mexico had agreed to immediately buy “large quantities” of U.S. agricultural products from “our great patriot farmers.”
Instead, it supplements a June 7 joint declaration that led to Trump suspending his threat of levying 5% incremental monthly tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico, in exchange for Mexico’s promise to send National Guard troops to its southern border to stem the flow of migrants from Central America, among other measures.
The supplementary agreement states that the U.S. and Mexico “will immediately begin discussions to establish definitive terms for a binding bilateral agreement to further address burden-sharing and the assignment of responsibility for processing refugee status claims of migrants.”
It calls for a commitment to “accept the return, and process refugee status claims, of third-party nationals who have crossed the party’s territory” to arrive at the other country’s ports of entry. And it sets a deadline in late July for Mexico to achieve “results in addressing the flow of migrants to the southern border” of the U.S.
In the U.S., the agreement was mocked on social media. “First year law students everywhere: an agreement to agree is not a binding contract. They agreed to nothing,” wrote one Twitter user. “It’s an agreement to negotiate an agreement,” another said.
But in Mexico, the agreement has prompted ongoing discussions—and a fair amount of opposition—regarding whether Mexico should do Trump’s bidding on curbing the number of undocumented migrants traveling north, or face more of Trump’s economic bullying.
Mexico’s top immigration official resigned Friday at the request of López Obrador and was replaced by the director of the country’s prisons. The new head of immigration, Francisco Garduño, will join a team of five officials tasked with implementing any agreements reached with the Trump administration, the Associated Press reported.
Negotiations over Mexico’s migration policies in conjunction with the U.S. are being led by Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. Ebrard said Friday that the deployment of about 6,000 Mexican National Guard troops to that country’s southern border with Guatemala would begin on Tuesday. An additional 825 immigration agents and 200 officials from the country’s welfare department also will be sent, the AP said.
Meanwhile, Ebrard is seeking help from the United Nations and other countries to help respond to the flow of undocumented migrants through the region en route to the U.S.
But some lawmakers in López Obrador’s own political party, MORENA, oppose turning Mexico into a buffer zone for migrants and a so-called safe third country tasked with processing asylum requests.
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a MORENA veteran who is president of the lower house of Congress, said Washington’s safe third country demand would be an unacceptable loss of sovereignty.
“They want to turn this country into a cage,” he said in Congress on Wednesday. Later, he told Mexican radio that Trump was using “economic terror” to pressure Mexico and that the country should not give in.
The party’s Senate leader, Ricardo Monreal, said such an agreement would be viewed by the legislature as “inadmissible.”
Former Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Andres Rozental told Reuters that Mexican negotiators should have called Trump’s bluff on the tariff threat. “We will have the sword of Damocles hanging over us until the election next November,” Rozental said.