A senior Mexican official sought Monday to portray the U.S.-Mexico agreement to reduce northward Central American migration as an overnight success, asserting that border crossings had fallen by nearly half a mere 10 days after the countries issued a joint declaration.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t immediately confirm that figure, and a Mexican press aide later conceded that the official may have been talking about one single-day drop.
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The Mexican official, who briefed reporters in Washington, said U.S. Border Patrol arrested 2,600 people per day after the agreement was struck on June 7. That would be a steep drop from the daily average of 4,300 border arrests in May.
“We have information … that the numbers of people arriving to the southern border of the U.S. are diminishing,” the official said at the news conference. “One example is, they were arriving around 4,500 to the southern border of the U.S. … three weeks ago … And now there are around 2,600.”
Although the official’s phrasing was somewhat imprecise, a press spokesperson later confirmed that the 2,600 figure represented daily arrests. But the senior Mexican official stressed that the numbers might not indicate a long-term reversal of a surge of migrants leaving Central America in recent months.
“It’s very difficult to give an example of a day as a trend,” the Mexican official said.
President Donald Trump’s threat last month to impose tariffs on Mexican goods if the country didn’t step up immigration enforcement led to intense negotiations between officials from both countries.
In a June 7 joint declaration, the Mexican government vowed to deploy 6,000 members of its newly formed National Guard to stem the flow of migrants through its territory. The U.S. said it would expand the unilateral implementation of its “remain in Mexico” program, which forces certain non-Mexican asylum seekers to stay in Mexico pending the resolution of their U.S. asylum cases.
The two parties also struck a side deal that was not initially made public. Under this “supplemental agreement,” both countries agreed to evaluate the success of the measures after 45 days. If the U.S. remained insufficiently convinced of the plan’s efficacy, the countries agreed they would engage in talks related to a broader regional asylum deal or “safe third country” pact in which migrants would be required to seek asylum in Mexico if they passed through that country en route to the U.S.
The two countries did not agree to a specific metric to demonstrate whether the initial measures succeeded.
“Metrics were never put on the table,” the Mexican official said Monday.
In a wide-ranging conversation, the official said the negotiations with the U.S. “were very tough” and that the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wanted to provide certainty to businesses on both sides of the border.
The Mexican official called Trump’s tariff threat “illegal,” and said it contravened the North American Free Trade Agreement and the spirit of the new free trade pact being negotiated among the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
However, contesting the tariffs through international bodies such as the World Trade Organization could have taken as long as two years and led to “enormous” economic consequences, the official said.
“So the Mexican government decided to take a very responsible attitude to negotiate in good faith,” the person said.
The official also fielded a question about the recent resignation of Tonatiuh Guillén, who was commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute. He resigned Friday as Mexico stepped up immigration checks and detentions.
One reporter asked if the resignation was a reaction to the crackdown.
“Some people interpreted it like that,” the Mexican official said.