We will pay one way or the other

If tariffs on Mexico go through we'll be paying a tax for the president's racism. You can fight back by helping migrants and their advocates.

I joked that, of all the terrible things Donald Trump has done, potentially slapping a five percent tariff on my beloved Tecate was the worst of all.

Moments of levity are all we have now in the face of the never-ending onslaught of meanness and stupidity that surrounds us each day. When it came to immigration policy, the Trump administration has engaged in widespread cruel stupidity that does nothing to address the root causes of migration. With the possibility of tariffs against Mexico, Trump is now opening a new front of economic stupidity, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board noted a few days ago.

The tariffs on Mexico are our Child King’s latest salvo in his flailing attempts to completely stop the migration of brown people to the United States. This time, he thinks he can do it by making Americans pay more for fruits, vegetables, beer and many other things. He thinks somehow the cost of the tariffs, which he says will only stop if Mexico is somehow able to solve a problem — migration — that no one in the span of human history has been able to solve, will be paid for by Mexico.

This, of course, will not happen.

He believes he can stop people who are in part fleeing a lack of economic opportunity by imposing more economic inopportunity. If the goal is to get Mexicans and Central Americans to want to stay in their countries, tariffs that will kill jobs and reduce income for those countries will do the exact opposite.

Many people, to use one of Trump’s favorite phrases, have noted this. They include Shannon O’Neill, of the Council on Foreign Relations. From Bloomberg:

The U.S. government is pushing Mexico to sign onto a safe third party agreement in exchange for continuing free trade (something the previous Enrique Pena Nieto administration refused). This would designate Mexico a safe place for migrants, even though it is patently not. It would also free the United States from any Central American asylum claims along its southern border by forcing Mexico to deal on its own with the hundreds of thousands of refugees. Which it obviously can’t.

The ensuing humanitarian crisis would likely send Mexico’s economy, which already shrank in the first quarter of 2019, into recession if not a full-blown crisis. If that happens, more migrants will head to the U.S., as Mexicans join Central America’s sojourners.

The US Chamber of Commerce is considering suing the Trump administration over the tariffs. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce noted that a lot of those working class Hoosiers who voted to Make America Great Again will now be “innocent victims [...] paying what amounts to tax increases.”

Fellow old white man who normally supports Trump’s radicalization of immigration policy Chuck Grassley said the tariffs are a bad idea. The markets acted predictably to the world’s largest economy seeking tariffs on its second largest trading partner over something that has nothing to do with economic policy while also in a trade war with its largest trading partner, China, by posting some of their worst losses since 2011.

“He’s gonna create a recession or die trying,” a friend texted me.

Good thing that folks as wealthy as Donald Trump are usually immune to recessions. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

If the tariffs on Mexico go through, American citizens and companies will be forced with the choice of either paying a lot more for things or not buying them at all. It’s a pretty safe assumption most will choose the latter, something Trump and his fellow millionaire advisors don’t understand, because they’ve never really had to make decisions on things like weekly grocery bills, rent, putting gas in their cars and child and health care.

One of the concessions Trump is looking for is what O’Neill mentioned — a safe third party agreement. This means the Trump administration — and by that, we mean Stephen Miller, the 33-year old, fascist anti-immigrant advisor with no experience in economic policy who is pushing the Mexico tariffs — wants the country to designate itself a safe third party state. In other words, a place where migrants fleeing rampant gang and drug violence will be “safe” while they wait for their asylum cases to be heard in US immigration courts. Mexico cannot do this, obviously, because violence there has been rising in recent years to its highest levels in years.

Migrants are especially vulnerable targets for exploitation in such environments. Not that the Trump administration cares. If Mexico were to agree to safe third party designation that would open the doors for the US government to send even more migrants there, which it’s already been doing under Remain in Mexico.

At least three migrants seeking asylum were murdered after being returned to Juárez to await their court date, according to the Hope Border Institute, an El Paso-based non-profit. Hope has been documenting the various problems that migrants are facing under the program. They include lack of access to attorneys, advocates, and translators. A mother and her five-year-old daughter were kidnapped in Juárez after telling a judge they feared returning there. The judge sent them back anyway.

You can donate to Hope here.

El Paso has quietly remained ground zero for the historic surge in migrants in recent months. On May 30, the Homeland Security Inspector General detailed “dangerous” overcrowding at facilities at Paso Del Norte. You might remember that El Paso-based photographer Justin Hamel and I detailed the growing tent cities that migrants are being held in there back in April. They’ve grown larger since then.

Meanwhile, a company with major Republican ties whose CEO is constantly on Fox News yammering about border security is behind a crowdfunded effort to build a wall in nearby Sunland Park, New Mexico.

While migrants are held in poor conditions and the US government is engaged in what courts may decide is a mass-denial of their rights under the constitution — let alone human rights — this is what some Americans have chosen to spend their money on.

Readers of Where Do We Go From Here can do the opposite. Authorities continue to release as many as 1,000 migrants a day to Annunciation House in El Paso, which has been scrambling to keep up with the demand for food, clothing and shelter for the men, women and children who have trekked thousands of miles for a chance at a better life. You can donate to A-House here.

Finally, a bit of good news. Rubén, the Honduran migrant I met in Juárez in February, has finally made it to Texas where he is staying with family. This wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of this newsletter’s readers, who raised more than $1,000 for Rubén’s asylum defense back in April. Some of those funds got us a consultation with an attorney, which led us to the very helpful folks at the University of Tulsa Legal Clinic. A few dollars more got Rubén a ride — you might remember that he is confined to a wheelchair — down to Texas, about five hours in the car.

We are both incredibly grateful for you generosity.

I’ll be updating the fund soon, which you can still donate to here, because we now must begin the asylum application process for Rubén. Once he’s given a date for a credible fear interview, we’ll need to raise more money to hire a lawyer. But for now, thank you all.

As always, if you like what you see here please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend, or subscribing to receive it in your inbox. And remember what Rubén said:

Pedir es fuerza y dar es voluntad.


P.S. The photo at the top of this post is mine. It’s from February in Juárez, the day after I met Rubén.