President Donald Trump plans to threaten to impose new tariffs on Mexico if the country does not step up its enforcement actions, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
The announcement, which Trump teased to reporters as a “big league” announcement on immigration, could come as soon as the end of this week. The news was first reported by The Washington Post.
“We are going to do something very dramatic on the border because people are coming into our country,” the President told reporters as he left the White House on Thursday morning.
The White House declined to comment.
Trump has threatened Mexico with tariffs in the past as he has grown frustrated with the flow of Central American migrants to the southern US border. He last made this threat in April amid another threat to close the border with Mexico. After walking back that threat, he suggested that tariffs would be a more effective means to pressure Mexico to do more.
“Before we close the border we’ll put the tariffs on the cars,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t think we’ll ever have to close the border, because the penalty of tariffs on cars coming into the United States from Mexico at 25% will be massive.”
In the last several days there has been a mass of migrants apprehended crossing the border illegally. On Wednesday, a group of more than 1,000 were apprehended by the Border Patrol, which one Department of Homeland Security official said was the largest group of migrants ever apprehended together. According to the official, the migrants, made up of mostly families, turned themselves in.
There is growing frustration with Mexico in the administration. US officials are not seeing a corresponding decrease in apprehensions at the US border with Mexico as a result of the country’s enforcement actions at its own southern border.
If Trump makes good on a tariff threat against Mexico, it is not clear how that would affect the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, which the administration is pushing Congress to ratify.
The Trump administration also recently released the principles of an immigration bill that would tighten asylum criteria and shift to a merit-based immigration system. But that plan has little chance on Capitol Hill and has been dismissed by even Republican lawmakers as more of a statement of principles than legislation intended to become law.
Trump continues to be frustrated by the difficulty of changing immigration law through Congress and with the asylum process, which he has complained is rife with fraud.