U.S. and Mexican officials are discussing the outlines of a deal that would dramatically increase Mexico’s immigration enforcement efforts and give the United States far more latitude to deport Central Americans seeking asylum, according to a U.S. official and a Mexican official who cautioned that the accord is not finalized and that President Trump might not accept it.
Faced with Trump’s threat to impose escalating tariffs on Mexican goods beginning Monday, Mexican officials have pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the country’s border region with Guatemala, a show of force they say will make immediate reductions in the number of Central Americans heading north toward the U.S. border.
The Mexican official and the U.S. official said the countries are negotiating a sweeping plan to overhaul asylum rules across the region, a move that would require Central Americans to seek refuge in the first foreign country they set foot upon after fleeing their homeland.
Under such a plan, the United States would swiftly deport Guatemalan asylum seekers who set foot on U.S. soil to Mexico. And the United States would send Honduran and Salvadoran asylum applicants to Guatemala, whose government held talks with acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan last week.
The officials described the accord’s framework on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the international negotiations, but they expressed optimism that the deal was attainable. Officials from both countries said they did not know if the terms would assuage Trump and alleviate the tariff threat; Trump plans to charge a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods unless the country can show it will take steps to reduce the flow of migrants streaming to the U.S. border.
Significant differences remain about how quickly and how much Mexico can reduce unauthorized migration through tougher enforcement measures, the U.S. official said. Last month, U.S. authorities made more than 144,000 arrests along the southern border, the highest level in 13 years.
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