Trump says secret deal with Mexico takes effect when he wants

Justin Sink
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing for a trip to Iowa, on the South Lawn of White House, Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Washington.

President Donald Trump told reporters that he reached a secret pact with Mexico that will take effect when he wants it to – despite the country’s insistence that there are no secret components of an immigration deal struck last week.

“That’s the agreement that everybody says I don’t have,” Trump said at the White House on Tuesday, holding one page of what he described as a lengthy deal but refusing to explain the details. “If they bring the numbers way down, we won’t have to use it. OK?”

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said separately at a conference in Washington the deal relates to asylum and would be put in place if the immigration agreement doesn’t stem the flow of undocumented migrants to the U.S.

Trump on Friday said he was dropping plans for tariffs on Mexico that he’d been threatening to impose for the previous week after the country promised new steps to stem an influx of illegal migration into the U.S.

Under the immigration deal, Mexico will expand deployment of its national guard throughout the country, “giving priority to its southern border,” according to a joint statement from the two countries. Asylum seekers who cross into the U.S. will be quickly returned to Mexico where they’ll wait for their claims to be resolved; the U.S. agreed to accelerate adjudication.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Tuesday that if illegal immigration into the U.S. isn’t reduced, the U.S. is proposing that Mexico accept asylum applications from migrants from Central America instead of allowing them to apply in the U.S.

Mexican officials have said that there’s an agreement to evaluate the success of current measures after 45 days and see if they’re working or if more needs to be done.

But it wasn’t clear whether Trump could trigger an agreement as he asserted. Trump said the agreement he was referring to would need to be ratified by the Mexican Congress.

"If the measures that we have proposed do not work, we would have to enter into a discussion of other measures,” Ebrard said.

Indeed, a photo of a portion of the agreement Trump was holding, taken by the Washington Post, said that if the U.S. determines not enough has been been done after 45 days “the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under the domestic law to bring the agreement into force.” The language in the photo didn’t specify how that would be accomplished but vaguely refers to “burden-sharing” related to refugees.

Trump over the weekend hinted at additional measures between the U.S. and Mexico, after he vowed that Mexico would soon make “large” agricultural purchases from the U.S. as part of the deal on border security and illegal immigration. Ebrard said on Monday that there wasn’t any side agreement made on agriculture.

Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. predicted on Sunday that trade in agricultural goods “could increase dramatically” now that tariffs aren’t going ahead and if the USMCA, the trilateral trade pact with the U.S., Mexico and Canada designed to replace NAFTA, is ratified – but didn’t cite a specific deal with Washington on farm purchases.

On Tuesday, Mulvaney also referred to a secret agreement with Mexico. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event in Washington, Mulvaney described the deal as a “backstop.”

He said that if the immigration pact signed last week doesn’t work, “there’s another agreement” related to asylum. He didn’t elaborate.

With assistance from Katia Dmitrieva.