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In my original blog yesterday, I took note of possible future breakthroughs in US-Mexico cooperation on migration from Central America. And I pointed out the disparity in coverage of the negotiations between various news accounts — and between policy analysts.
Following up, here are today’s print headlines from three leading newspapers dealing with this story: the Wall Street Journal, “Mexico Weighs Asylum Overhaul;” and the Washington Post, “Mexico Pledges Immigrant Curbs. Future Steps Toed to Results. Tariff not off the table.” Then there is this from the New York Times: “No Secret Migrant Deal Exists With US, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Says.”
Let’s start with the Times. The story follows the skeptical coverage flagged in the Sunday pieces. The headline is technically correct, and builds upon President Trump’s penchant for mixing fact and fiction: to wit, when he tweeted Monday that the US had a “fully signed and documented” agreement with Mexico, soon to be revealed, that would change Mexico’s position on so-called “safe third country” status. (Trump’s tweet refers only by inference to the exact terms: “we have an agreement on something they will announce very soon. It’s all done.”)
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard immediately denied that any secret agreement that was “signed and documented” existed. But he did not deny that a new line of negotiations regarding safe third country status was possible in the near future: “Let’s have a deadline to see if what he have works and if not then we will sit down and look at measures you propose and those we propose.” He took note of the safe third country proposal specifically. The Times does not use the quote I pointed to yesterday, when Ebrard also stated that he had personally promised Vice President Mike Pence that he would take the US proposal to the Mexican Senate. In sum, the Times piece contains a good deal of information — the two reporters, Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman, are both excellent craftsmen. But the headline is misleading as to the real news in the article.
That’s not the case with either the Journal or the Post. In those pieces, the editors correctly perceived the real news from their reporters’ analysis. After a detailed account of the negotiations, Post reporters concluded: “The enforcement measures Mexico has promised … appear to be more substantial than what the Mexican government has attempted thus far in the precipitous rise in immigration to the US border.” They state that though Mexico still opposes safe third country designation, it seem ready to agree to measures that will have similar results — with the caveat that they want regional help from other Latin American countries.
Similarly, Journal reporters opened their account thusly: “Mexico agreed to revisit US demands for a radical overhaul of its immigration system if its proposed measures to curb immigration don’t work, putting it under intense pressure to stem the tide of Central Americans arriving at the US border.” The Journal piece also highlights the role of Vice President Pence who — in stark contrast to his boss — both during and after the negotiations carefully calibrated his description of the negotiations and of the results. He has avoided the boastful gloating that could politically undermine Mexican officials.
So again, what about the future? As always with Donald Trump there is always the possibility that a modest, tentative victory (no matter how it was achieved) can spiral into a stinging defeat — continually taunting Mexico in coming days may force President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to renege on future commitments. But as Pence has firmly, but circumspectly, maintained, sometime over the next 45-90 days if the migrant numbers don’t drop Mexico has committed to even further dramatic changes in its immigration policy. As Trump is fond of saying: “We’ll see what happens.”
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