WASHINGTON (AP) — Three days after President Trump announced a deal with Mexico to stem the flow of immigrants at the southern border, the two countries appear unable to agree on exactly what’s in it.
Stung by criticism that the agreement mostly ramps up border protection efforts already underway, Trump on Monday hinted at other, secret agreements he says will soon be revealed.
“We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years,” Trump wrote Monday, saying it would “be revealed in the not too distant future.”
Not so, said Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, holding up a paper and pointing to the previously announced details. He told reporters the two countries agreed on two actions made public Friday and said if those measures didn’t work to slow migration, they would discuss further options.
“There is no other thing beyond what I have just explained,” he said.
The episode revealed the complicated political dynamics at play as Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tussle over who made out best in the agreement hashed out under Trump’s threat of tariffs on Mexico. Trump was eager to declare his negotiation tactics successful, even as he tried to hype the deal with made-for-TV drama and invented measures, sparking questions and confusion.
Mexico’s leaders showed they weren’t willing to play along.
The White House did not respond to inquiries about Trump’s tweets.
But the president appeared to be making a reference to talks over how Mexico handles Central Americans who travel through the country to seek political asylum in the United States.
The Trump administration has pressuring Mexico to enter into a “safe third country” agreement, which would deem Mexico a safe place for immigrants and make it harder for asylum-seekers who pass through the country to wait until they reach U.S. soil to file a claim.
But the deal announced Friday made no mention of the issue.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to share details of closed-door talks, said Mexico had expressed openness to the idea during negotiations, and said the two countries would continue to discuss the issue in coming months.
Mexico has insisted that it has not agreed to the provision, which would require approval from its lawmakers.
Instead, Ebrard said during a news conference in Mexico City on Monday that if the deal announced Friday does not begin to drive down immigrant numbers in the next 45 days, officials will open up new discussions in which the United States will again push for the safe third country measure and Mexico will propose establishing a regional refuge system in conjunction with the United Nations and the governments of Guatemala, Panama and Brazil — three countries that are often starting points for emigrants headed to the United States.
“They wanted something else totally different … to be signed,” Ebrard said Monday. “But that is what there is here. There is no other thing.”
As for Trump’s tweets hyping a secret measure? Ebrard said he’d provided a full account for transparency’s sake.
Mexico fears that being designated a safe third country would add to the number of asylum applications it receives. Those numbers have climbed dramatically in recent years and the government has said it does not have the resources to keep up.
As a practical matter, Mexico would have difficulty integrating thousands of additional immigrants into a barely growing economy, making them targets to expand the ranks of Mexican organized crime.
Over the weekend, Trump also claimed another new element of the deal, tweeting that Mexico had “AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!” The administration has yet to reveal the details of any such provision, and Mexican officials say no agreement on farm goods was reached as part of the talks.
Ebrard told reporters the talks had focused on immigration, not commerce, and hypothesized that Trump was calculating an economic boost resulting from his decision not to implement the tariffs.
“We do not have a specific agreement on products of that nature,” he said.
Trump has spent the days since Friday’s announcement defending the scope of the deal.
That includes a commitment by Mexico to deploy its new National Guard to the country’s southern border with Guatemala — something the country already intended to do before Trump’s latest threat. It includes an agreement to publicly support the expansion of a program under which some asylum-seekers are returned to Mexico as they wait out their cases. U.S. officials had been trying to expand the program, which has led to the return of about 11,000 to Mexico without Mexico’s public embrace.
Trump and other administration officials, however, say Mexico made major concessions and have credited his threat to slap a 5% tax on all Mexican goods if the country didn’t immediately agree to do more to stem the flow of Central American immigrants across the U.S. southern border. Without the threat, Trump has insisted, Mexico never would have acted.
“It was all done because of the tariffs and because of the relationship that we have with Mexico,” he told reporters Monday, after a call-in interview with CNBC Monday morning in which he said officials had “talked about it for months and months and months,” but couldn’t reach agreement until the threat.