(CNSNews.com) – President Trump on Sunday dismissed as false a New York Times report saying his much-touted immigration deal with Mexico contained nothing new, and his stance was backed up later in the day by acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan.
On a key element of the bilateral agreement, McAleenan said Mexico has previously deployed just several hundred troops to its southern border with Guatemala, but has now agreed to a “more than tenfold” increase in numbers.
Trump tweeted that his administration, like predecessors, have been working on some parts of the agreement regarding border actions expected of Mexico, but had been unable to secure them, or secure them fully, until Friday’s signed deal.
He added that some elements of the agreements, including “one in particular,” have yet to be announced. And the president warned that his threat to impose escalating tariffs – put on hold as a result of Friday’s agreement – could still be realized if for some reason Mexico does not cooperate.
“But I don’t believe that will be necessary.”
Under the agreement announced following bilateral talks in Washington, Mexico agreed to an “enforcement surge” including “deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border,” the State Department said.
It would also be “taking decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks.”
Both sides agreed to expand and accelerate the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a policy put into place earlier this year under which certain unauthorized migrants are returned to Mexico to await the outcome of their immigration proceedings.
Mexico will admit them and offer jobs, healthcare and education, while the U.S. pledged to speed up the adjudication of asylum claims, the department said.
The two sides also agreed to continue discussing additional understandings on dealing with irregular migrant flows and asylum issues.
Finally, there was further agreement on working together with regional and international partners to build a more prosperous and secure Central America, to address factors seen as driving citizens to leave their home countries and travel north.
Citing unnamed officials from both countries, the New York Times reported Saturday that Mexico had already agreed in the past to many of the actions in the announced agreement – including expansion of the MPP in December and the deployment of the National Guard in March (when McAleenan’s predecessor, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, held talks with Mexican officials in Miami).
But McAleenan, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, backed up Trump’s assertions.
Asked by host Bret Baier what parts of the deal announced on Friday were new, he replied, “All of it is new.”
“We’ve heard commitments before from Mexico, to do more on their southern border,” McAleenan continued. “The last time they deployed down there it’s about 400-500 officers. This is more than a tenfold commitment to increase their security in Chiapas – that’s where people are entering from Guatemala in[to] southern Mexico.”
McAleenan said this was the first time Mexico has agreed to “anything like this kind of number of law enforcement” officers being deployed to address migration issues – not only at its southern border with Guatemala, but also along transportation routes through Mexico to the border with the U.S., and in “key areas” along that border.
Asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s criticism of the president’s tariff threats, McAleenan said that people can disagree about tactics, but that “Mexico came to the table with real proposals. We have an agreement that, if they implement, will be effective.”
New National Guard
Mexico’s National Guard (GN) is a new crime-fighting entity, announced last November by then-president elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and set up earlier this year. It incorporates civil police officers and military personnel.
Human rights groups have voiced concern about its militarized nature, and in a bid to quell criticism López Obrador signed an agreement with the U.N. last April on human rights training for GN personnel.
In a speech in Tijuana on Saturday, the Mexican president confirmed that, under the agreement, “the National Guard will be deployed at the southern border as part of a national security program and in accordance with the Constitution.”
“The National Guard can help in supporting tasks on migration and protecting facilities,” he said.
López Obrador was addressing a government-organized event near the U.S. border that was originally billed as a solidarity rally (“Unity in Defense of Mexico’s Dignity and in Favor of Friendship with the People of the United States”) in the face of then-looming U.S. tariffs, but was changed into a celebratory occasion after the deal was struck to avert the tariffs.
“What’s next?” Mexico’s El Universal quoted him as telling the event, where he was joined by cabinet ministers and 23 state governors. “Strengthen the border, apply the law and respect human rights, and promote the development plan of Mexico and Central America.”
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who led his country’s delegation during the three days of talks, told the rally that the imposition of U.S. tariffs could have raised prices, dampened investment, and cost some 900,000 Mexican jobs.
He said Mexico had emerged from the talks with the U.S. with its “dignity intact.”