Tariff threats Drive Wedge Between U.S., Mexico, Amid Talks

The United States continued talks with Mexico on Thursday amid U.S. President Donald Trump's threats to slap tariffs on its southern neighbor. If tariffs take effect, that could impact both economies and drive a wedge between Washington and its third largest trading partner, experts said.

At issue is whether Mexico will step up efforts to stop the flow of undocumented migrants crossing its southern border into the United States. Trump has expressed frustration over growing inflow of illegal immigrants. Last month saw a decade-long high in apprehensions of illegal migrants, with 133,000 detained at the border.

Mexico is also used as a route of entry to the United States by violent criminal gangs from El Salvador, such as the infamous MS-13, while many of Trump's supporters also believe that illegal immigration drives down working class wages and increases competition for blue collar jobs.

Illegal immigration will be one of Trump's major platforms in the 2020 elections, and the president believes Mexico has done very little to mitigate the situation. While Mexico on Thursday vowed to provide 6,000 troops to beef up border security, that may not be enough to satisfy Trump's demands.

The U.S. president has threatened that if Mexico does not take action to stem the tsunami of illegal migration, he will slap a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods that will grow incrementally if no agreement is reached.

TV news personality and Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua the main problem is that U.S. laws do not reflect the reality on the ground. The vast majority of illegal migrants are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many are traveling as families, or claiming to be families.

The laws are designed to stop single men from Mexico, rather than families or children migrating alone. Laws make it difficult to detain such individuals, even if they are lying about being under the age of 18. Authorities often have no choice other than to release them into the United States, where they remain indefinitely.

"Thanks to American laws, the people who come here illegally, the majority will never be deported," O'Connell told Xinhua.

"If people don't ever think they are going to be turned away, why would they ever stop coming?" O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Ruslting at Xinhua 

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