President Donald Trump signs an executive order on energy and infrastructure during a campaign event at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby last month.
President Donald Trump signs an executive order on energy and infrastructure during a campaign event at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby last month.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump is preparing to threaten Mexico with new tariffs as part of an attempt to force the country to crack down on a surge of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States, according to three administration officials who described the “big league” statement Trump teased to reporters Thursday morning.

Trump is planning to make the announcement Friday but some White House aides are trying to talk him out of it, arguing that such a threat would rattle financial markets and potentially imperil passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, according to these officials, who requested anonymity in order to discuss internal administration plans.

A senior White House official, however, said there is broad support across the administration to push Mexico further and that Trump’s announcement is likely to happen Friday. This official said aides were meeting late Thursday to make sure the implementation is ready.

The White House on Thursday sent a draft of the trade deal to Congress in an attempt to expedite its passage. The deal aims to curb the type of tariffs Trump is now threatening to impose if Mexico does not stop the migrants.

The president told reporters outside the White House Thursday morning that he was preparing a “major statement” about the surge.

“It will be a statement having to do with the border and having to do with people illegally coming over the border and it will be my biggest statement so far on the border,” Trump said.

“This is a big league statement,” he added, without going into detail. “We are going to do something very dramatic on the border because people are coming into our country.”

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 Central Americans crossed into the El Paso area to surrender to U.S. authorities, the largest group of migrants that U.S. border agents have taken into custody in a single event.

Trump’s planned threat would follow immediately after the White House sent a draft of its new trade agreement to Congress that, if ratified, would replace the 1994 NAFTA deal. The draft allows Trump to send the final agreement in 30 days, a timeline that is much faster than House speaker Nancy Pelosi has said would be acceptable.

It is not clear if Trump could successfully impose new tariffs under the terms of the USMCA as it awaits congressional approval. The agreement is intended to limit tariffs and trade barriers between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

A Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said talks with U.S. officials have remained “positive,” and noted that Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador was also preparing to send the deal to lawmakers for approval. The official declined to say whether the White House has conditioned the trade deal on a migration crackdown by Mexican authorities.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who has taken responsibility for the relationship with Mexico, is traveling in the Middle East to promote his potential peace plan for the region.

U.S. agents have detained more than 100,000 at the border for the past two months, and the numbers in May are expected to be the highest yet, DHS officials say.

Damian Paletta contributed to this report.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Read this story at https://www.texastribune.org/2019/05/30/trump-threatens-mexico-tariffs-central-american-migrants-cross-border/