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US President Donald Trump waves at the crowd at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation Thursday, May 30, 2019 at Air Force Academy, Colo. Image Credit: AP

Mexican President seeks dialogue with Trump

Mexico City: Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador sent a letter Thursday to his American counterpart Donald Trump saying he does not want "confrontation" and calling for dialogue with the US on migration.

The letter came after Trump announced tariffs on goods coming from Mexico that he said would remain in place until the flow of "illegal migrants" coming to the US is "remedied."

"I express to you that I don't want confrontation... I propose deepening our dialogue, to look for other alternatives to the migration problem," Lopez Obrador wrote in the letter.

New tariff on Mexico from June 10

Washington will impose a five per cent tariff on all goods from Mexico starting June 10, a measure that will last until “illegal migrants” stop coming through the country into the US, President Donald Trump said Thursday.

“On June 10th, the United States will impose a 5% Tariff on all goods coming into our Country from Mexico, until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump tweeted.

“The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed,” he wrote.

According to the White House, the tariff will rise to 10 percent on July 1, then increase by five percent increments each month until topping out at 25 per cent on October 1.

“Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 per cent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the statement said.

“If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed,” the White House said.

The announcement came the same day that Trump kick-started the process of ratifying the new North American trade pact with Mexico and Canada— an agreement which is now likely to be under serious threat.

Mexico responds

Mexico’s top diplomat for North America vowed to retaliate.

“It’s disastrous. If this threat is carried out, it would be extremely serious,” said Jesus Seade, under-secretary for North American affairs at the Mexican foreign ministry.

“If this is put in place, we must respond vigorously,” he told a press conference.

Trump’s announcement came a day after border agents in El Paso, Texas detained the largest single group of migrants they had ever encountered— 1,036 people.

The group crossed the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in the early morning hours of Wednesday, illustrating the mounting problem that Trump’s administration has been unable to get under control.

The El Paso group comprised of entire families, 39 single adults and 63 unaccompanied minors, all from Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

“The apprehension of 1,036 individuals in a single group— the largest group ever encountered by Border Patrol agents— demonstrates the severity of the border security and humanitarian crisis at our Southwest border,” said Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez.

The number of migrants apprehended has topped 100,000 a month in recent months.

They are mostly people fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to ask for asylum once they arrive on US soil.

“Mexico’s passive cooperation in allowing this mass incursion constitutes an emergency and extraordinary threat to the national security and economy of the United States,” the White House said in the statement.

“Mexico has very strong immigration laws and could easily halt the illegal flow of migrants, including by returning them to their home countries. Additionally, Mexico could quickly and easily stop illegal aliens from coming through its southern border with Guatemala.”

Migrant crossings soar

Trump pledged in his 2016 election campaign to halt illegal immigration, but the numbers of migrants have steadily climbed throughout his 28 months in office.

The CBP said more than 530,000 migrants have been apprehended entering the country since the beginning of the fiscal year in October 2018.

Congress has been unable to pass proposed measures to take action on the immigration issue, and Trump has been stymied by courts on some of the measures his administration has attempted.

Tapping his executive powers against a resistant Congress, Trump has also taken money from the military budget to construct sections of wall along the lengthy frontier.

But he needs much more funding, and courts have weighed in to stall some of the work.