If there was any remaining doubt that congressional Republicans won’t override Trump’s new tariffs on Mexico, this ought to extinguish it. Whether tariffs will succeed in incentivizing the Mexicans to crack down on border crossings will be brushed aside. So will the fear that the tariffs might backfire, not only slowing the U.S. economy to Democrats’ advantage in 2020 but damaging the Mexican economy so deeply that locals who were otherwise inclined to stay put decide to make a run for the border themselves in hopes of finding work in America.
None of that will matter as the sense of crisis grows, per the usual logic during crisis: Something must be done. And tariffs, for good or ill, are “something.”
It’ll be impossible for Republicans to say no. And it’s increasingly difficult for courts to say no to Trump’s declaration of a border emergency to justify wall funding. The argument at the time was that it’s a funny kind of “emergency” that can wait for weeks or months while the president and Congress haggle over money to construct a wall. All the White House needs to do to justify its “emergency” claim now, though, is point to the numbers. From the Border Patrol, via CBS:
Remember the border crisis of 2014? Monthly apprehensions are now twice as high as the peak that year. Among the 140,000+ arrested were 84,000 families and 11,000 minors, a population slightly larger than Pasadena, California. The U.S. is being asked to process and house the equivalent of a mid-sized American city every month. (Over the past seven months, noted the acting head of the Border Patrol, immigration authorities have detained more people than the population of Miami.) One day last week more than 1,000 illegals attempted to cross into El Paso in a single group, the largest ever recorded by Homeland Security.
This is, to hear Mexico tell it, the best it can do by way of deterrence.
CBP is strained to the breaking point:
The agency has more than 19,000 migrants in custody, officials said, leaving Border Patrol holding cells so packed that detainees spend days in dirty, cramped conditions, sometimes without enough floor space to lie down, while waiting to be processed.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in the 24 years I’ve been doing this job,” said Brian Hastings, the Border Patrol’s operations chief.
CBP officials say Border Patrol agents now spend 50 percent of their time processing migrants and caring for families in custody, including frequent trips to hospitals and clinics. U.S. authorities say the burden has been a boon to drug traffickers and human smugglers who aim to sneak past U.S. defenses, particularly when hundreds of migrants cross the border at the same time.
There are logistical problems in the new tariff policy too, though, notes the Times. Some companies’ supply chains cross the border several times, which will presumably require them to pay multiples of the tariff. And Trump’s timeframe for “substantially” reducing the immigration flow leaves Mexico with little time: The tariffs take effect Monday and will increase every month through October. The hot summer months may decrease the flow across the border temporarily, but then again maybe not. You’ll notice in the graph above that illegal immigration actually increased during the summer in 2017.
Exit question: What does Trump do once the tariffs fail to cut immigration dramatically? If it makes you feel good to say “mine the border,” have at it, but I’m thinking of realistic solutions. Is there anything the U.S. could bribe Mexico with to convince them to accept much larger numbers of Central American migrants on asylum grounds?