President Donald Trump spent much of Saturday celebrating the deal his administration sealed with Mexico mere days before threatened tariffs were set to take effect. But, in truth, the agreement consists of a series of measures that Mexico had agreed to months earlier, the New York Times reports, citing officials on both sides of the border.
The centerpiece of the agreement involves a measure that effectively expands a program that allows those seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed. The program was already in place at three of the busiest border crossings, but the Times notes Mexico had already agreed to expand the program to the entire border.
The joint declaration by the two countries issued Friday also highlights that Mexico had agreed to deploy National Guard troops throughout the country, and especially along its southern border, to stop the flow of migrants. But the Mexican government had already agreed to do that in March. Mexico managed to push back on a demand—which would have truly marked a change—that involved a designation of a “safe third country,” meaning the United States could reject asylum-seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first.
To be fair, the deal could effectively accelerate the implementation of the previous promises, considering U.S. officials were getting a bit impatient with Mexico. But in that case it was just an expansion of things that had already been agreed to by both countries. And that makes sense when you consider that negotiations really didn’t start until last Sunday. Despite all of this, Trump celebrated the deal on Saturday as groundbreaking. “Everyone very excited about the new deal with Mexico!” Trump wrote on Twitter. In another tweet, Trump thanked the president and foreign minister of Mexico “for working so long and hard to get our agreement on immigration completed!”
“It was unclear whether Mr. Trump believed that the agreement truly represented new and broader concessions, or whether the president understood the limits of the deal but accepted it as a face-saving way to escape from the political and economic consequences of imposing tariffs on Mexico,” notes the Times.
Even as Trump said that everyone was “excited” about the deal, Democratic leaders made sure they made their dissent known. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the president’s tactics to get to an agreement. “Threats and temper tantrums are no way to negotiate foreign policy,” Pelosi said in a statement. She also expressed disappointment that the Trump administration is expanding “its failed Remain-in-Mexico policy, which violates the rights of asylum seekers under U.S. law and fails to address the root causes of Central American migration.”
Trump also fired a shot at Pelosi Saturday, calling her “nervous” and saying that Democrats aren’t doing anything and should take up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. “Nervous Nancy Pelosi & the Democrat House are getting nothing done. Perhaps they could lead the way with the USMCA, the spectacular & very popular new Trade Deal that replaces NAFTA, the worst Trade Deal in the history of the U.S.A. Great for our Farmers, Manufacturers & Unions!” Trump tweeted.
Earlier, Sen. Chuck Schumer sarcastically responded to the president’s announcement, calling it a “historic night.” Trump “has announced that he has cut a deal to ‘greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States,’” Schumer wrote. “Now that that problem is solved, I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more about it in the future.”