More evidence that Trump's tariff battle with Mexico made a difference

Last week, Ed pointed to some pretty clear evidence that things were changing in Mexico in response to direct pressure from President Trump. Specifically, it appears Mexico is making a more concerted effort to stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the US border despite some claims in the media that Trump’s tariff threats hadn’t accomplished anything. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported some more evidence Trump’s plan is working:

Mexican authorities increased immigration enforcement along well-traveled routes for migrants in southern Mexico over the weekend, checking identifications, pulling migrants off public transport and intercepting four trucks packed with nearly 800 migrants.

The National Migration Institute said 1,000 immigration agents had been deployed in the north and south of Mexico. The deployment comes as Mexico faces heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. Mexico plans to position 6,000 National Guard troops by Tuesday to its southern border with Guatemala…

The Associated Press saw nearly 10 armed soldiers at a checkpoint near Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, in Chiapas state, wearing black armbands to indicate they are part of the National Guard. The soldiers stopped vehicles while immigration officials checked identification and removed passengers without documents.

So something has changed since last week and it’s obviously visible to news organizations who bother to look. But will this change make a dent in the thousands of people traveling through Mexico every day? At least one Mexican observer expressed some doubt about that:

Luis Guillermo Lechuga, who sells vests near one of the checkpoints, was skeptical that the increased security presence will reduce the flow of migrants through Comitán and surrounding areas.

“Everything will be the same,” said Lechuga, who expressed a mixture of sympathy and annoyance with the travelers.

Everything won’t be the same, but let’s face it: Human smuggling, like drug smuggling, is big business in Mexico. The smugglers aren’t going to give up simply because the job gets tougher. There has been a temporary disruption to the supply chain bringing people to the US border (what US authorities call the conveyer belt). An influx of new agents will force the smugglers to raise prices and maybe start offering bigger bribes to pass checkpoints. The system will reach a new equilibrium but the flow of migrants won’t stop.

Still, if the goal is to discourage economic migrants from using our asylum laws as a backdoor for illegal immigration, raising the cost of getting to the border make sense. But don’t expect this initial disruption to last unless the pressure is kept on Mexico not to settle for a few headlines.