President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE has announced that he will impose a 5 percent tariff on goods imported from Mexico on June 10, 2019, unless Mexico takes effective action before then to dramatically reduce the number of Central American migrants crossing its territory to reach the United States. If the crisis continues, Trump said he will raise the tariff every month until it reaches 25 percent in October.
This is a dramatic shift from his previous border security measures, such as a border wall. The money for those projects would have come from federal taxes. Voters wouldn’t have been impacted directly.
The tariff, however, will raise the cost of groceries, cars, and many other consumer goods. Voters will notice, and they won’t be happy about it.
Why is Trump committing political suicide on the eve of an election year?
The answer can be found in Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…” The Democrats control the House of Representatives, and they have prevented him from getting the funds he needs for his other border security measures.
For instance, the Democrats refused to provide funding for a border wall. Left with no other options, Trump declared a national emergency so he could start construction of the wall with money that had been appropriated for other purposes. But he still doesn’t have his wall, and the crisis at the border is escalating.
He is turning now to border security measures that he can implement without additional funding, such as imposing a tariff on goods imported from Mexico. I expect others to follow.
Trump’s authority to establish such tariffs comes from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
According to Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on presidential powers, the IEEPA is an incredibly powerful authority. It allows the president to declare a national emergency with respect to any extraordinary threat to the national security or economy of the United States that has its source, in substantial part, from overseas, and to impose severe economic penalties on countries associated with the threat.
There will be tariff consequences
Mexico is one of Americaʼs largest trading partners, with a bilateral relationship worth $671 billion last year. For instance, last year, the U.S. imported $26 billion worth of agricultural products from Mexico, and 14 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. were produced in Mexico.
A 25 percent tariff on Mexican goods could cost American consumers of produce such as avocados and mangoes $3 billion annually, and asparagus grown in Mexico makes up 55 percent, or $426 million worth, of what’s found in American stores.
Also, the Mexican government is likely to retaliate by putting tariffs on imports from America, which could be particularly hard on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) state.
In 2017, Mexico ranked fifth among California agricultural export destinations. Dairy products topped the list that year with $447.5 million worth of exports, followed by fresh grapes and processed tomatoes.
Will Mexico comply with Trump’s demands?
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has claimed that Mexico is doing its part to prevent migration through its territory as much as possible already.
In the first two months of 2019, Mexico returned 13,281 migrants to the three Central American countries of the Northern Triangle; but according to CBP statistics, 114,874 illegal crossers were apprehended at the U.S. Southern Border during that period and apprehensions have risen to around 100,000 a month since then.
The Mexican government, however, may not be able to do much better. It has difficulty implementing its immigration laws because its immigration agency is chronically underfunded and riddled with corruption.
Democrats in willful denial
Democrats who must know what’s going on at the border are still denying there is a border security crisis.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, claimed recently that the crisis at the border is the way Trump is treating the migrants.
At a hearing several months ago, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) asserted that Trump has declared a nonexistent emergency at the border because Congress would not capitulate to his funding demands.
They must know that Border Patrol apprehensions have risen from 51,008 in October 2018 to 98,977 in April 2019. Apprehensions for that seven-month period totaled 460,294 — and 248,197 of them were of family units who could not be detained. CBP statistics comparing apprehensions to date in the current fiscal year to those of the same period in fiscal 2018 show a 400 percent increase in family units.
Apprehensions do not indicate how many illegal crossings are being made. No one knows how many aliens succeed in crossing without being detected. That number could be much higher than anyone thinks.
Also, large groups of migrants traveling with a child surrender at the border because they know they will not be detained, and transnational criminal organizations are taking advantage of these groups as a distraction in order to conduct criminal activity elsewhere on the border, as they know CBP resources will be tied up processing the groups.
How can the Democrats possibly believe that defeating Trump is more important than dealing with this crisis?
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1