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Trump announces 5% tariffs on Mexico in effort to stop migrants coming to the US

President Donald J. Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews Air Force Base Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Maryland, en route Colorado Springs, CO., to attend the Air Force Academy Graduation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead/Released)

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that a new 5% tariff will be imposed on Mexico in an effort to pressure the country to stop the ongoing influx of migrants from Central America making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump tweeted, adding that the “tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied.”

Trump’s announcement is the latest move from the White House to try to prevent migrants — the majority of whom are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — from crossing into the United States via Mexico.

A 5% tariff will begin on June 10, but would be removed if Mexico takes “effective actions” to alleviate the “illegal migration crisis,” which will “be determined in our sole discretion and judgment,” Trump said in a separate statement issued by the White House shortly after Trump’s tweet. However, “if the crisis persists” tariffs will increase to 10% on July 1, Trump also said in the statement.

The tariffs will continue to increase to 15% on Aug. 1, 20% on Sept. 1 and 25% on Oct. 1, if Mexico does not take action “to dramatically reduce or eliminate” the number of migrants against the migrants traveling through its territory to the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump also said that tariffs will permanently remain at 25% until Mexico “substantially stops” the flow of migrants coming to the United States illegally through its territory.

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But, Trump also said in the statement, “Workers who come to our country through the legal admissions process, including those working on farms, ranches, and in other businesses, will be allowed easy passage.”

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The president has previously threatened to take other actions to try to stop migrants from illegally crossing the border into the United States.

In April, Trump suggested he would close the U.S.-Mexico border, which he ultimately did not do, following backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and concerns about impact on trade and financial markets.

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At the time, however, the president also warned that he would give Mexico a “one-year warning,” and then would likely impose a 25% tariff on cars.

Trump administration officials on Thursday called on Mexico to “step up” to stop the migrant influx at the southern U.S. border.

“It is our very firm belief that the Mexican government can and needs to do more,” White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on a call with journalists Thursday about the new tariffs.

Mulvaney dismissed questions about the potential economic impact of raising tariffs on one of the nation’s largest trading partners. Mulvaney said the tariffs were “not linked” to the pending U.S.-Mexican-Canadian trade agreement — one of the administration’s highest priorities in Congress— but it is difficult to see how the tariffs will not play into that effort.

“Americans are paying for this right now,” Mulvaney said when asked about the fact that U.S. consumers wind up paying for tariffs through higher costs on imported products. “Illegal immigration has a cost.”

The increase in migrants has in recent months overwhelmed some Border Patrol facilities and strained some local shelters and charities in states along the southern border. And, media outlets continue to report, and the administration continues to confirm, that migrant children have died while being detained in the government’s custody.

Mulvaney said the administration “sincerely hopes” it doesn’t come to raising tariffs as high as 25 percent.

“We really do not want to do this,” Mulvaney said. “But we do it to protect the country.”

Reiterating the administration’s longstanding contention that the situation at the border is a “crisis” and an “emergency,” Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan said an average of 4,500 people are crossing the border each day, compared to 700 a day several months ago. McAleenan said the department currently has more than 80,000 people in custody.

“We need to take concerted action,” he said.

McAleenan said the U.S. wants Mexico to “step up” security on its southern border, target gangs and work with the U.S. on improving the asylum system. He offered few specific details about what the administration wants Mexico to do on those fronts to suspend the tariffs.

In his statement, Trump placed blame on to the Mexican government, claiming it has “allowed this situation to go on.”

And that was the case for much of 2018, when former President Enrique Peña Nieto welcomed migrants into his country, providing them with humanitarian assistance and setting up temporary facilities in border towns as they waited to request asylum in the U.S.

Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took a similar approach after assuming office in December after vowing during his campaign he would not do the “dirty work” of the United States. His government started issuing one-year humanitarian visas to migrants arriving in Mexico, allowing them to work and cross the country without having to hire a smuggler.

But all that assistance came to a halt in recent months. López Obrador’s administration ended the visa program, ordered bus operators to stop ferrying migrants across the country, and started arresting and deporting far more Central American migrants.

In April, Mexican immigration officials and federal police detained 371 migrants marching in a caravan in the largest operation to date against migrants. Local police departments have even blocked off roads leading to town centers where residents had previously welcomed migrants with open arms.

Immigration has been a policy focus for Trump since early in his 2016 presidential campaign, when he promised to build a wall along the southern border and blasted Mexico for “not sending their best.”

Since then, the president’s rhetoric has gotten more intense.

He has repeatedly called the influx of migrants from Central America an “invasion.” Many of the migrants are heading to the U.S. to seek asylum from growing gang violence and economic turmoil. Most recently, Trump has said that “our country is full” and that the U.S. can no longer take migrants.

“As President of the United States, my highest duty is the defense of the country and its citizens,” Trump said in the statement issued by the White House. “A nation without borders is not a nation at all. I will not stand by and allow our sovereignty to be eroded, our laws to be trampled, or our borders to be disrespected anymore.”

One Republican lawmaker has come out against Trump’s newly announced tariffs.

“Trade policy and border security are separate issues,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.Grassley also said Trump’s new tariffs are “a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent” which could seriously jeopardize ratification of the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

As an alternative, Grassley suggested Trump consider imposing fees on the billions in remittances sent every year from the U.S. to Mexico “which only encourage illegal immigration and don’t help the U.S. economy.”

“I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them. I urge the president to consider other options,” he said.

Contributing: John Fritze and Alan Gomez

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© 2019 USA Today

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.