After receiving much criticism from Democrats for threatening Mexico with tariffs for not stopping migrants from entering the United States illegally at the southern border, President Donald Trump scored a victory as Mexico struck a deal and ordered its military to arrest migrants riding “The Beast” train to enter the U.S. illegally at the border.
“The Mexican military has deployed and is taking action against migrants after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador struck a deal with President Donald Trump to prevent the implementation of tariffs on Mexican imports,” TheBlaze reported.
From freedom train to incarceration express
The railroad notorious for allowing U.S.-bound migrants to illegally hitch rides north to the border – before they break into America illegally – is being stopped dead in its tracks.
“Mexican military deployed throughout the country as part of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's vow to do more to apprehend migrants headed to the United States, have officially begun targeting foreigners who have hitched rides aboard a freight train known as ‘The Beast’ to get to the U.S.-Mexico border, local media reported Sunday,” the Washington Examiner announced. “Mexican National Guard held up the ‘La Bestia’ train in an unpopulated area near Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas – a city north of the Mexico-Guatemala border – where migrants have been crossing into the country.”
Describing what resembled an old Western train holdup, Digna Ochoa Human Rights Center Director Nataniel Hernández Núñe recalled stopping the train as migrants tried to flee the scene and escape detention for trying to illegally leave the country via the notorious express.
"The National Guard was placed on one side – [the] moment that was taken advantage of by more than 200 migrants who got off the train and fled," Núñe told the local newspaper, El Universal. “[Many] hid in the bush, so only 25 were arrested."
No longer a free ride …
With Trump’s newly applied pressure to stop illegal immigration via threatening tariffs on Mexico imports, riding the underground railroad into the U.S. is no longer a done deal for migrants looking to illegally break into the U.S.
“According to El Universal, migrant apprehensions in Mexico have increased 200 percent after Trump publicly threatened Mexico with tariffs,” TheBlaze’s Chris Enloe noted. “Because Mexico agreed to increase their immigration efforts – which they are clearly doing – Trump announced Friday that he would not move forward with the tariffs.”
The underground railway networking system – freight train routes that a 2008 Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean report titled “The Challenges of Migration in Mexico: A Two-sided Mirror” said migrants have used to travel through Mexico for more than 10 years – has finally been busted up by Mexican authorities – at least for now.
“The train was headed to Oaxaca – a state located northwest of Chiapas,” the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli noted. “From there, the train riders would have hopped onto another freight train.”
Even though migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally break over the border from Mexico, many are from other countries and face deportation from Mexico if caught.
“Mexico's Institute for National Migration has previously said migrants who illegally entered the country and do not have temporary visas allowing them to travel through will be deported because they are in the country without legal permission,” Giaritelli recounted.
During the pro-immigration Obama administration – during which time migrants breaking over the border illegally hoped to be granted amnesty – this railway practice was at its height.
“Migrants have used freight trains at a lower rate in recent years compared to how popular it was around 2014 and 2015, when unaccompanied children and families began climbing aboard the trains to avoid paying smugglers to get them to the U.S.-Mexico border,” Giaritelli explained.
Despite statutes prohibiting such railroad transportation, migrants have utilized the underground system on a regular basis – that is until Trump put pressure on Mexico to finally enforce its own laws.
“Mexican authorities in 2014 declared it illegal to ride on the trains when the practice became widespread,” Giaritelli informed. “Until this weekend, the move has gone largely unenforced.”
The illegal route to freedom via Mexico is no quick and simple process by any means.
“The trains leave out of Mexico's southern state of Chiapas then go up to Mexico City – located in the center of the country,” Giaritelli detailed. “From there, the trains go in a number of directions, giving migrants options as to which part of the U.S. border they would like to go. The journey typically takes two weeks.”
And many migrants risk their lives in their attempts to reach America.
“Riding on top of the 12-foot-tall freight cars is dangerous,” Giaritelli added. “Injuries and deaths have been well-documented over the past decade, including last month, when a Honduran man trying to jump on board while the train was moving fell off and had his foot run over by a wheel.”
Not a done deal?
Despite Mexico’s action steps to fulfill its part of the deal, Trump still expressed some skepticism as to whether Mexico will continue to uphold its end of the bargain, so he kept his threat to impose tariffs on Mexico imports alive just in case things don’t go as promised.
“President Donald Trump on Sunday dangled the prospect of renewing his tariff threat against Mexico if the U.S. ally doesn't cooperate on border issues, while some of his Democratic challengers for the White House said the last-minute deal to avert trade penalties was overblown,” The Associated Press (AP) reported.
In typical form, the president took to Twitter to get his message across – defending the agreement to suspend the 5-percent tax on all Mexican goods – to his more than 60 million followers, but he also noted that he is being cautious in the matter and reserves the right to impose the import taxes if Mexico doesn’t follow through … something he does not believe he will need to resort to.
"[I]f for some unknown reason [cooperation fails], we can always go back to our previous, very profitable, position of Tariffs," Trump reminded Mexico in a tweet, according to ABCNewsGo.com.
AP described the new deal as Mexico agreeing to accelerate what it had already vowed to do – such as promising to deploy the new Mexican National Guard to its southern border shared with Guatemala.
“The U.S. also hailed Mexico's agreement to embrace the expansion of a program implemented earlier this year under which some asylum-seekers are returned to Mexico as they wait out their cases,” AP’s Jill Colvin pointed out. “But U.S. officials had already been working to expand the program, which has led to the return of about 10,000 people to Mexico, without Mexico's public embrace.”
Resuming his anti-Trump campaign as a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O-Rourke attempted to discredit the president for intensifying his “tough on immigration” pressure on Mexico.
"The president has completely overblown what he reports to have achieved,” said Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, speaking on ABC's This Week. “These are agreements that Mexico had already made, in some cases months ago. They might have accelerated the timetable, but by and large, the president achieved nothing except to jeopardize the most important trading relationship that the United States of America has."
Pro-open borders Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – who consistently ranks second to former Vice President Joe Biden in popularity polls for 2020’s Democratic presidential candidates – also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Trump.
“[Trump should not use tariffs as a threat and operate a] trade policy based on tweets," Sanders insisted, according to AP. "I think what the world is tired of – and what I am tired of – is a president who consistently goes to war, verbal war with our allies, whether it is Mexico, whether it is Canada."
Acting Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan discounted the Democratic candidates’ claims.
“[A]ll of it is new [including Mexico’s vow to dispatch 6,000 National Guard troops],” McAleenan told Fox News Sunday. "This is the first time we've heard anything like this kind of number of law enforcement being deployed in Mexico to address migration – not just at the southern border, but also on the transportation routes to the northern border and in coordinated patrols in key areas along our southwest border. [P]eople can disagree with the tactics, [but] Mexico came to the table with real proposals [that will be effective, if implemented].”
Mirroring McAleenan’s defense of the new deal, Trump blamed Democrats for intentionally discrediting his victory stemming from his tariff threat.
"We have been trying to get some of these Border Actions for a long time, as have other administrations, but were not able to get them – or get them in full – until our signed agreement with Mexico," the president tweeted.. "Mexico was not being cooperative on the Border in things we had, or didn't have, and now I have full confidence – especially after speaking to their president yesterday – that they will be very cooperative and want to get the job properly done."
Trump also hinted at more good news regarding his trade/immigration deal with Mexico.
“He also teased the idea that more was agreed to than was announced Friday, saying that ‘some things’ and ‘one in particular’ had been left out of the release, but would be ‘announced at the appropriate time,’" Colvin inserted. “He could have been referring to discussion about Mexico becoming a ‘safe third country,’ which would make it harder for asylum-seekers who pass through the country to claim refuge in the U.S. The idea – which Mexico has long opposed – was discussed during negotiations. But Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has said Mexico did not agree to it.”
Mexican ambassador in Washington, D.C., Martha Barcena, vowed her country’s commitment to corroborate with the White House as negotiations move forward.
"We want to continue to work with the U.S. very closely on the different challenges that we have together – and one urgent one at this moment is immigration," Barcena told CBS' Face the Nation, noting that the Trump administration would like to have migrant numbers crossing the border drop back down to 2018 levels. "[The U.S.’s and Mexico’s] joint declaration of principles ... gives us the base for the road map that we have to follow in the incoming months on Immigration and cooperation on asylum issues and development in Central America."